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Against Love: A Polemic Hardcover – Aug 26 2003

42 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1 edition (Aug. 26 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375421890
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375421891
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 2.2 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #924,962 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

Less against love than against the cultural constraints that leads us to create wrong-headed ideas of love, this is book is the perfect antidote to any lingering social guilt about being happily single. Against Love: A Polemic will both shock and irritate, especially when you find yourself nodding your head in agreement while laughing at another broken taboo. Laura Kipnis (author of Bound and Gagged, Ecstasy Unlimited) clearly enjoyed writing this; she lets her wit run rampage over classic married situations and human emotions with results that include comparing adulterers to freedom fighters (using sharpened spoons to tunnel out from under love's barbed wire fences) and referring to tearful confessions of cheating as "funny little couple rituals." These make it fun, but the iconoclastic beauty is in her questions. How did good relationships come to be considered work instead of play? Why, unlike most of history and many other modern cultures, do Americans assume love and marriage go hand-in-hand? What lead to infidelity committed by public figures becoming a source of outrage? Kipnis doesn't have answers. Although urging us to have more compassion for our own desires, she expects her readers are smart enough to supply their own in response to her ideas. That attitude itself is a treat--if you're prepared to keep up through a complex whirlwind of Freud, Marx, Gingrich, Wollstonecraft, and several generations of pop culture. Jill Lightner

From Publishers Weekly

In this ragingly witty yet contemplative look at the discontents of domestic and erotic relationships, Kipnis (Bound and Gagged: Pornography and the Politics of Fantasy in America) combines portions of the slashing sexual contrarianism of Mailer, the scathing antidomestic wit of early Roseanne Barr and the coolly analytical aesthetics of early Sontag: "Aren't all adulterers amateur collagists? We're scavengers and improvisers, constructing odd assemblages out of detritus and leftovers: a few scraps of time and some dormant emotions...." With a razor-sharp intelligence and a gleeful sense of irony, Kipnis dismantles the myths of romance surrounding monogamy and makes the case for why adultery is a reasonable, often used, escape hatch. Kipnis is often most funny when at her most provocative ("Feel free to take a second to mull this over, or to make a quick call: `Hi hon, just checking in!' "), but even her moments of sarcastic humor can have a sobering effect, as when Kipnis considers the reasons behind the public's obsessive need for reading about real and fictional stories of spousal murders, noting that "perhaps these social pathologies and aberrations of love are the necessary fallout from the social conventions of love." Kipnis is adroit at detailing (sometimes with "notoriously unreliable" sexual self-reporting statistics) how our desire for fidelity is often at odds with basic human needs for personal freedom, and is terrific in dissecting how-or so Kipnis's case goes-"family values" politicians like Newt Gingrich fail miserably to live up to their own rhetoric. In the end, she concludes that adultery and fidelity have to exist side-by-side: "let's face it: purity always flirts with defilement." Kipnis balances her scintillating, on-target observations on straying with an honest sense of compassion for human experience.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Grattan on May 26 2004
Format: Hardcover
Marriage, as the basis of family, is by the far the most venerated social institution in the United States. It is where two uniquely attracted people can supposedly fully realize true love. Yet, half of all marriages do not last. That fact coupled with the actual characteristics of surviving marriages leads the author to a rather strong critique of the entire institution.
The author finds that passion and attraction, those things that make courtships so exhilarating and that are considered to be core elements of marriages, disappear rather quickly. Frequently, what remains are relationships bubbling with rancor that have become deadened. All manner of surveillance of the marital partner is used to squash any possibility of infidelity. Large doses of blame are doled out because of perceived failures to attend to, and even anticipate, the psychological and emotional needs of the partner. The reactions are withdrawal, subservience, or hostility. Among the counselor community this state of affairs may need adjustment, but is regarded as basically normal. The author derides the notion that this state of affairs is in any way normal and all that is needed is "hard work" to increase marital harmony.
The author compares the control regime and lowered expectations of marriages with workplace environments and even citizenship. In an era of economic dislocation, the admonition to work harder is hardly liberating. Rebels, meaning those who actually attempt to grasp for more and counter established authority, are dealt with harshly. This is the context in which the author places adultery. When passion suddenly appears, many will take large risks to escape marital suffocation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Feb. 13 2004
Format: Hardcover
Kipnis comes from the Susan Sontag school of writing and the rules are:
1) Be witty and make clever observations.
2) If you disagree with someone, put them down with snide comments rather good arguments.
3) Don't bother doing any research as being bloated from a diet of popular culture is a good substitute for the collection of facts.
This isn't good enough.
I would have been much more impressed if Kipnis had spent time examining the biology of love. A few pages of what actually goes on in our neurobiologies when we fall for someone would have disillusioned much more than a cynical survey of the results of those neurochemicals firing. Think how Darwin destroyed religious superstition with his research. Instead, Kipnis shows how silly people act and how silly people think who criticize how people act when under the influence of romantic/erotic love.
Love is literally dopey (due to the brain's dopamine). People who waste years of their life looking for love are morons. And Kipnis missed an opportunity to tell it like it is to her mostly female readership.
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Format: Hardcover
This polemic has an unusual beginning. It starts off with a short preface reminding readers that it is a polemic and as such is likely to be exaggerated and unfair. Swell. Just what we need, a book that starts off by admitting that it's not really serious. Even worse, this doesn't really modify Laura Kipnis' argument. It is important to note what Kipnis is arguing. She is not arguing that modern marriage is unfair to women. She is not arguing that sentimentality and romanticism are making it hard for real couples to live difficult lives. She is not arguing that public moralism over the fate of the children is used as a substitute for ways to actually help them. She is not arguing that the increasing work week and the demands of employment are making life more difficult for families. She is not even arguing that love is being puffed up as an individualist panacea while ignoring problems that are collective in nature. It is true that through her slim little book she makes allusions to all these arguments. But this is not one of the two much better books on the subject written by Stephanie Coontz. What she is really arguing against is love itself. Kipnis, in other words, is a Christopher Lasch for swingers.
The result is, obviously enough, shallow and counterproductive. Kipnis starts off by noting how much the marriage counselling industry makes use of metaphors of work (ie. We all have to work at this relationship). Where Lasch would have commented on the insidiousness of the culture of therapy, and others might have commented on therapists' poor taste and shallowness, Kipnis leaps to the conclusion that love is nothing more than another rationalization of capitalist labor-discipline. In her view love is the most successful of Foucault's self-disciplining traps.
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Format: Hardcover
Against Love is an extremely interesting work. As the author states, it is a polemic (confrontational argument), not an essay or balanced account of the subject. It is purposefully designed to push the reader into a confrontatory state regarding the subject of love, especially in the context of marriage/coupling in current U.S. society.
I found Kipnis' writing wonderful, witty, intense, and refreshing. She is the first author I have read in a long time that sent me packing off to the dictionary more than once in a book. She is erudite without being a stuffy academic, knowledgable without being pedantic, and humorous without being gross. I see her as having the honesty of a Carol Queen, the political savy and wit of a Molly Ivins or Jim Hightower, the insightful intellect of a Noam Chomsky, and more. This is one of the few books I have read in the last few years that had me laughing out loud in places. She really hits the nail right on the thumb. Regardless of how you feel about the topic or the ideas discussed, her writing alone is worth reading the book.
Of course, I may be biased. Her writing style is similar enough to mine that I felt very much at home with this book, and read it quickly. She does write in a style that is complex, with long sentences (and paranthetical asides). She also has a substantial vocabulary. Her use of style is neither narcissistic nor exhibitionistic, however. Her use of language in her presentation of ideas is pointed and precise, and it is difficult to put the book down once one starts reading it. (I found myself reading it in one sitting.) Despite being divided into chapters, it reads more like one long, flowing discussion.
As far as the actual material, it is not an exhaustive history of marriage and courtship behavior in U.S. society.
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