Friday Remainders

Last weekend Lennard J. Davis, author of Obsession: A History was interviewed on ABC Australia’s radio program Saturday Extra. In the interview host Geraldine Doogue talks to Davis about his new book which explores the role obsession plays in our 21st century lives. From obsessive aspects of professional specialization, to obsessive compulsive disorder and nymphomania, as Davis shows, obsession plays an important yet paradoxical role in the western mindset. Addressing the full spectrum of obsessive behavior, Davis’s graceful analysis describes the fascinating historical and contemporary role of obsession as both a pathology and a goal.
Navigate to the Saturday Extra website to listen, or navigate to the press’s website to check out our own interviews with Davis—one in audio and another in text.
A detail from an image of one of Norman Maclean’s favorite fly lures that graces the cover of A River Runs Through It and Other Stories, Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition was featured in this week’s installment of the New Yorker Book Bench Blog’s covers contest in which reader’s try and guess the identity of a book based on small snippet of its cover graphic. You can play along by guessing what books the rest of the covers belong to, (they’ve already chosen the winners for this week’s contest though). Or just click here to see the full covers from this week’s contest and get ready for next Wednesday’s installment.
David Berreby, author of Us and Them: The Science of Identity was cited earlier last week in an article in the “Fashion & Style” section of a recent edition of the New York Times. The article quotes Berreby in a discussion of the recent Britain’s Got Talent phenom, Susan Boyle—the “frumpy 47-year-old unemployed church volunteer who lived alone with her cat,” who stunned audiences with her apparently quite talented singing on the show. And while many critics have since cited the episode as an example of modern society’s tendency to “judge a book by its cover,” many social scientists, including Berreby, reveal that such stereotyping is in fact deeply rooted in human social evolution. From the article:

One reason our brains persist in using stereotypes, experts say, is that often they give us broadly accurate information, even if all the details don’t line up. Ms. Boyle’s looks, for example, accurately telegraphed much about her biography, including her socioeconomic level and lack of worldly experience.
Her behavior on stage reinforced an outsider image. David Berreby, author of Us and Them, about why people categorize one another, said the TV audience may have also judged her harshly because, in banter with the judges before singing, she appeared to be trying, awkwardly, to fit in.
“She tried to be chipper, and when they asked her age, she did this little shimmy,” as though she assumed that on such programs “you’re supposed to be kind of sexy and personable, and she got it wrong,” Mr. Berreby said. “Nothing sort of triggers our contempt more than something trying to be acceptable and then failing.…”
“[Stereotyping’s] not something we came up with because of TV or the car. It’s not connected to modern life at all. It is inherent in the mind.”

Read the rest of the article on the NYT website.