The Seasons of a Man's Life

by Daniel Levinson et al. Knopf, $10.95
Daniel Levinson is the forgotten man of the “stages of growth” industry. Not too many years ago, the New York Times reported his discovery that fortyish white middle-class Protestant males—the presumably “advantaged” segment of our complicated social mix—appeared to suffer from more than their share of divorces, breakdowns, alcoholism, and other forms of emotional wear and tear. Levinson, the Times said, sought an explanation of this surprising disarray among the privileged, and hoped to publish his findings soon.
Though some of those findings have already crept into other books on the subject, Levinson’s analysis deserves careful reading. The lives of his subjects, he says, take place in recognizable segments, each containing critical transition periods and different assumptions, ambitions, and potential points of stress. Levinson’s mapping out is thorough, intelligent, and convincing.
But recognizing life’s perils is not the same as solving them. Levinson, by his own admission, can only generalize about the way a conscientious society might reduce the strain its work and family arrangements unwittingly impose.