Second Bookses

It's like second breakfast. Only with books.
Genie: A Scientific Tragedy - Russ Rymer My mother recently brought me over boxes of books I haven't seen in years, one of which was Genie: A Scientific Tragedy. When I was still in college, I had planned on doing my senior psychology thesis on "unattached" children as they were called at the time, children who never properly bonded with a caregiver, and as a result, seemed to have no conscience. I was first drawn to Genie because her story begins with such unbelievable abuse and neglect that I assumed the story was about such a child.::: Genie's Story :::When Genie was first discovered, it was accidental. Her mother walked into the wrong office at social services, and a story of horrific abuse was discovered. A child they thought was approximately six was, in fact, thirteen. She was malnourished and couldn't speak. They soon learned that her father had abused her, tying her to a potty chair by day and caging her at night.During the ensuing hospital stay, a team of doctors and other specialists determined that Genie would make an excellent research study, and for the next four years, she was studied in an attempt to learn how children developed if they were deprived of any normal conversation, toys, play, or human interaction.::: The Book :::Russ Rymer, the author, originally did a shorter version of Genie's story before expanding it into a book. Interspersed with Genie's story are concepts and figures in the field of linguistics (since that was the final focus of the study of Genie) as well as comparisons to the most famous story of a feral child before Genie: Victor, the Wild Child of Aveyron, who was immortalized in a film by Francois Truffaut.The parallels between the two stories are striking. In both instances, the research became more important than the welfare of the child. Not long after Genie's story begins, the inevitable infighting among the professionals who reportedly want to "help" her. At first, Genie seems to make progress by leaps and bounds, but as her progress stalls and the grant money dries up, the infighting gives way to even more neglect. The end of the story is nearly as tragic as the beginning.::: Rymer's Telling :::The story of Genie has been told before Rymer's book, perhaps more famously at the time in the dissertation/book Genie: A Psycholinguistic Study of a Modern-Day "Wild Child" by Susan Curtiss, the graduate student who followed Genie's language acquisition.Genie: A Scientific Tragedy seems to undertake a retelling of the story, exposing where helping a child was undermined by her viability as a research subject. The parts of the story that actually involve Genie are riveting, and you find yourself wanting to know what became of her, and how the book ended up. However, you are thwarted in your quest by the next exposition section, in which Rymer offers more background on the study of linguistics than anyone but a student might be interested. There are some interesting sections, especially where he refers to studies of brain development and how it applies to the theories made about Genie, but ultimately, he uses more too many linguistic theories and bandies about one too many French phrases without benefit of translation, and comes across as far too pedantic, making the reader feel inferior.::: Overall :::Rymer's book is categorized as science, but seems to fail both as a case study and as a scientific inquiry. If approximately 90 or so of the 221 pages were excised, it would be a fascinating read for anyone, but as it is, I'd recommend it only to those with an interest in child development or linguistics.I found the subtitle to be very appropriate, because science is what added to the tragedy of Genie's life. This review previously published at Epinions:

Currently reading

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Susanna Clarke
Elisabeth Sladen: The Autobiography
Elisabeth Sladen, David Tennant
Diary of a Submissive: A Modern True Tale of Sexual Awakening
Sophie Morgan
Bellman & Black
Diane Setterfield
Deep into the Heart of a Rose
G.T. Denny