Against Love: A Polemic Paperback – Sep 14 2004
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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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
My wish is that everyone would read this book, because I do think it is timely and important. My fear is that the message will be obscured by Kipnis' often tedious writing style, and this will scare some readers away. My message is please, muddle through!!!
Most recent customer reviews
Okay, this and the wonderful History of Celibacy should be on every woman's bedside table, to be hauled out to read when you are contemplating ditching your latest paramour and... Read morePublished on March 13 2013 by Dorothyanne Brown
This long essay (it hardly lays claim to the stature of book) is delightfully well written, and it mounts a very convincing series of arguments against the institution of marriage... Read morePublished on May 11 2004 by P. Gunderson
A barbed expose of the myths surrounding the sacred cows of marriage and monogamy. I found myself shaking my head in agreement many times while reading this book. Read morePublished on April 15 2004 by TSmith
Kipnis (and any author of polemic writing) has one mission; to stir the pot. Kipnis does so with wonderful audacity and biting sarcasm. Read morePublished on April 3 2004 by Maxwell Mattord
Divorce rates are climbing all the time, and now here comes more advice from the unloved that encourages the very selfishnesses that push people apart in the first place. Read morePublished on March 26 2004 by Lisa Hoffman
Authors sometimes are the last ones to understand their own motivations. Richard Rhodes wrote a book ("Making Love") which is supposed to be a paean to love but is... Read morePublished on March 9 2004 by Robert Carlberg
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. Read morePublished on March 4 2004 by email@example.com
Laura Kipnis teaches at Northwestern where my best friend from childhood goes to school. She read the book for one of her classes and has recommended it to every smart sassy woman... Read morePublished on Feb. 4 2004 by Dominique A.