Tuesday, November 03, 2009

What is Christine Kenneally reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Christine Kenneally, author of The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language.

Her entry begins:
I recently finished The Other Side of Sadness by George Bonanno, a book about the anatomy of grief that I reviewed for DoubleX. One of the interesting parts of the book that I couldn't fit into my review was that Bonnano writes about situations where another person's death set someone free--at least on the emotional level. In each case, a conflicted relationship ended with the death of one person, and that death somehow unlocked the mental chains that the other person carried within them. I'm still thinking about this, and I'd like to explore it further. What on earth does it mean? We are all so used to the idea that our emotional lives are ours to create, that we can all talk, or meditate, or medicate our way to complete self-determination. Even if we were subjected to trauma as children, we resolutely believe that our mental well being is in our own hands. But in Bonanno's stories, the key to someone's sense of their own freedom was held by someone else. I've never seen any research on this, and I'm not even sure if this topic is taboo. Are we worried that if we talk about the positive side-effects of another person's death, some may try to hasten it? Is it just too hurtful to contemplate? I don't know yet, but...[read on]
Christine Kenneally is a journalist and author who has written for The New Yorker, the New York Times, Slate and New Scientist, as well as other publications.

Among the praise for The First Word:
"[A] lucid survey of this expanding field... covers an enormous expanse of ground as she brings the reader up to date on developments in a wide variety of disciplines touching on language evolution... explains difficult ideas concisely and clearly... scrupulously fair-minded... zeroes in on a host of fascinating experiments."
--New York Times

"The First Word is a rare and delightful mix: both a probing exploration of one of the great remaining mysteries of life, and a riveting story of the battles and breakthroughs that drive scientific progress."
--Steven Johnson
The Page 99 Test: Christine Kenneally's The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language.

Read more about Kenneally's journalism and The First Word at her website.

Writers Read: Christine Kenneally.

--Marshal Zeringue