By Candace Clark
"Clark's . . . study tools [are] creative and her glimpses of U.S. lifestyles revealing. . . . and you've got to like a social scientist so respectful of pass over Manners."—Clifford Orwin, Toronto Globe and Mail
"Clark bargains a thought-provoking and relatively fascinating etiquette of sympathy in line with which we should act as a way to protect the sympathy credit we will be able to name on in time of need."—Virginia Quarterly Review
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Additional info for Misery and company : sympathy in everyday life
It is equally important to be aware that giving sympathy and getting sympathy have consequences for our everyday encounters, relationships, and the webs of social bonds that make up society. Giving or not giving sympathy, and receiving or not receiving it, can change the course of interactions and relationships. Sympathy contributes to the social order by connecting the unfortunate to the fortunate, by offering temporary breaks from coping with life’s difficulties, and by creating a wider circle for commentary and debate on issues of justice and morality.
Although it includes historical materials, it does not start at one point in time and move forward in linear fashion. Instead, the book is a journey, and I am the tour guide. The terrain is but sketchily mapped. To explore the sympathetic aspect of human experience, we must travel on roads made of data I have collected from the mass media, greeting cards, interview and survey responses, freewritings, and observations of everyday interaction. Unfortunately, we cannot travel all the roads at once.
Chapter 2 will take us down a microsocia1 road to look at the processes involved in sympathy giving. Chapters 3 and 4 take us to higher elevations, where we can view macrosocial issues. Beginning with chapter 5 , I will direct the journey off the main highways and slow the pace so we can turn our gaze onto the sympathizee. And in subsequent chapters, I will point to the interrelations of the sympathizer and sympathizee. More specifically, chapter 2 sets forth the three important stages in the sympathizing process: empathy, sentiment, and display.