Friday Findings

Letters to a Young Madman: A Memoir

Cover: Letters to a Young Mad Man
Letters to a Young Mad Man

When Paul Gruchow first started putting Letters to a Young Madman together, he wondered how his disjointed journal entries, quotes, and medical research could work to create something coherent and meaningful. Though every entry contains a different experience, a different thought, a quote that Gruchow could relate to, any reader of this book is able to clearly understand the message that Gruchow is sending.

Nichole Meier reviews this memoir of depression, which, she writes, allows readers not only to understand but also to empathize with the author’s experiences.

Bureau of Missing Persons: Writing the Secret Lives of Fathers (review)

In Bureau of Missing Persons: Writing the Secret Lives of Fathers, Roger J. Porter sets out to explore a subgenre of life writing he labels “€œThe Child’s Book of Parental Deception.” In this book, Porter reviews a range of autobiographical narratives written by adult children who seek to discover the secret lives of their fathers. His analysis focuses on the story as well as on the means by which the story is investigated, researched, and constructed.

Early in the book, Porter seeks to distinguish these life stories from other memoirs, claiming they are emancipatory in nature (7) rather than stories written from memory, or by survivors of abuse, or those who are traumatized in some way. He describes these narratives as texts that blur the line between biography and autobiography. Porter does not always seem to agree with his own claim, however, and he frequently refers to the books he reviews as memoirs or puts them in the context of research on memoirs. Later in his book, Porter notes that some of the authors find writing to be therapeutic as they veer between bitterness and reconciliation, affection and resentment.

Female Rock Stars and Addiction in Autobiographies

AIM – This article analyses addiction and rehabilitation as described in the autobiographies,memoirs and diaries of famous female rock artists. The article shows how female artists portray rock culture, addiction and causes to addiction. MATERIAL – The data includes 16 autobiographicalbooks published between 1982 and 2010. These books were published first in English. Femaler ock artists are marked as the first authors, and all of the books use first-person narration. METHOD – The analysis relies on thematic qualitative analysis and narratology. Data were encoded for addiction, object of addiction, rehabilitation and type of recovery from addiction. Gender was analysed as a separate category. In addition, narrative strategies used in the books were analysed. RESULTS – Addictions and rehabilitation are prevalent themes in autobiographical rock books written by female authors. Many authors write about their personal experiences of addiction and rehabilitation. Those authors who do not portray their personal problems with alcohol or drugs write about staying sober as a way of coping in the male-dominated rock world. CONCLUSIONS– Rock ’n’ roll mythology is changing. Rock artists no longer celebrate their excesses, but rather write about their negative experiences with alcohol and drugs. Rock narratives by female stars portray social and gendered settings which lead to addiction.

This is a rare instance in which you can read this entire scholarly journal article by Atte Oksanen. If you’ve ever wondered how researchers analyze texts such as memoirs, you’ll find out here.

Obama Seeking to Boost Study of Human Brain

The Obama administration is planning a decade-long scientific effort to examine the workings of the human brain and build a comprehensive map of its activity, seeking to do for the brain what the Human Genome Project did for genetics.

Read about research that many hope will lead to better ways to combat illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Why Confusion Can Be a Good Thing

We all know that confusion doesn’t feel good. Because it seems like an obstacle to learning, we try to arrange educational experiences and training sessions so that learners will encounter as little confusion as possible. But as is so often the case when it comes to learning, our intuitions here are exactly wrong. Scientists have been building a body of evidence over the past few years demonstrating that confusion can lead us to learn more efficiently, more deeply, more lastingly—as long as it’s properly managed.

Annie Murphy Paul explains three ways in which “deliberately induced confusion” can aid in learning.

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