Dr. Spock: An American Life
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A propos de cet article
Titre : Dr. Spock: An American Life
Éditeur : Harcourt Brace Janovich, Inc, New York
Date d'édition : 1998
Reliure : Red Cloth Hard Cover
Etat du livre :Excellent, as New
Etat de la jaquette : Excellent, as New
Edition : First Edition.
A propos de ce titre
Dr. Benjamin Spock, through his Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, may have had a greater effect on the everyday lives of more people than any other living American. His personal life, however, was shaken by failure and tragedy. Thomas Maier's extensive interviews with Spock, his family, and others who knew him draw the first complete picture of this complicated man, an American original of the importance of Henry Ford or Thomas Alva Edison. Known for his fatherly, folksy wisdom, Spock was at the same time a revolutionary and a magnet for controversy throughout his life. He camouflaged Fruen for Americans in his baby-care book, one of the best-selling books of all time. When he applied his ideals to politics, Spock shocked the country by protesting against the Vietnam war with Martin Luther King in 1967 and was attacked both by conservatives for fostering a "permissive" society and by feminists for his traditional attitudes about women's role in the family. Perhaps even more surprising, however, is Spock's troubled personal life: the breakdown and alcoholism of his first wife, his own failures as husband and father, his marriage to a much younger woman, and the suicide of his grandson. Although a tragic example of a man who helped millions but couldn't benefit from his own advice, Dr. Spock helped to create America as it is today, and Dr. Spock shows how the man reflects both the successes and failures of our society.
Thomas Maier's solidly researched, candid yet compassionate biography of the man who revolutionized child rearing in America could hardly have a more apt subtitle.
Dr. Benjamin Spock was a classic American rebel, a man who rejected conventional wisdom in favor of experiential truth. From his birth on May 2, 1903, to his death on March 15, 1998, Spock embraced many of the 20th century's defining social and intellectual trends, from Freudianism to antiwar protest. Yet all his actions sprang from a deeply ingrained sense of morality not so different from that of his decidedly Victorian mother.
"Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do." With these words in the 1946 first edition of Baby and Child Care, Spock lobbed a gentle bomb into the world of pediatric advice, dominated in the first half of the century by authoritarian scolds. The radicalism of Spock's basic idea--more attention to developing a child's individual nature and less to regulating it by rigid rules--was made palatable by his warm tone. He was a friend providing information, not Moses handing down the law; he bolstered parents' self-confidence.
Investigative journalist Thomas Maier seamlessly interweaves social and medical history with a cogent recap of the text and an examination of Spock's underlying intentions to explain why Baby and Child Care was such an innovative book and what made it so popular with the young couples just settling down to raise the baby-boom generation. He is equally balanced on his subject's personal life.
Maier credits the substantial contributions of Spock's first wife, Jane, to Baby and Child Care but also depicts her mental illness and alcoholism. He acknowledges that America's most trusted baby doctor was a distant and overly critical father but doesn't beat Spock over the head with his personal failings. The author makes sensitive use of interviews with Spock and his second wife, Mary, his two sons, friends, and other family members to give a three- dimensional portrait of an admirable but imperfect human being "[whose] book sometimes seemed better at handling relationships than the author."
Maier's thoughtful coverage of Spock's controversial political activism--from demonstrations against the Vietnam War during the 1960s to protests over cuts in social services during the Reagan Administration--reminds us that it emanated from the same world view consistently expressed in all the editions of Baby and Child Care. Spock was indeed "one of the great liberals of the 20th century," but he was a liberal in the broadest sense, like the young parents who read his book so eagerly:
"These parents wanted to be better than the generation before them, to make their families as happy as possible," Maier writes with typical perceptiveness. "They truly believed, perhaps far too naively, that with a self-help guide like Dr. Spock's baby book they could achieve this goal."
A very American vision: both idealistic and a bit ingenuous--very much like the man portrayed with such affection and insight in this worthy biography. -- Wendy Smith
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