Top critical review
Excellent premise, poor delivery
on November 29, 2001
I picked up this book with the notion that I was going to enjoy it. I finished this book disliking it ever so slightly. It would have made an awesome college report, but once you decide to publish it for the general public, the standard changes and the bar is raised. For one thing, I could have done without all the "kind of" and "gotta". This book, so academic, should have been proofread with that in mind. The casual use of colloquialisms and slang was out of place and detracted value.
Although I share many of her thoughts, I was irritated by some of the liberties she took when presenting them. For one thing, Wendy likes to generalize. She writes about a 19-year old who decided to get married. Wendy praises her decision, and makes a comment on the "words of tragedy" that the young bride had to hear. I too would issue words of tragedy to the vast majority of 19-year old GIRLS thinking about getting married! Statistics tell us that the younger you are when you marry, the higher your chances for divorce. Although the specific case that Wendy mentions might have been different, why does she turn up her nose to the "words of tragedy"? It is a poor idea to get married so young, because your chances for success are stacked against you. This is a substantiated fact. If Wendy had been truly rigorous in her analysis, she should have refrained from criticizing those who objected to such a young marriage, therefore generalizing marrying at 19 as a "swell" idea.
One area that I found particularly offensive is her opinion on antidepressants. Depression is a legitimate mental ailment, that in many cases has a clinical origin. For decades men and women alike have been blown off by their doctors whenever they have complained about feeling "blue". "Oh, you just need to get out some more. Take a vacation, go shopping! You'll see how you'll snap out of it soon!". What can you do if you have a biochemical imbalance in your brain? What would happen if doctors treated pancreatitis with the same cavalier attitude? Once again, Wendy falls prey of generalization, an easy resource for green writers. There might be some physicians out there that prescribe Prozac in the way Wendy describes, but this is no ground to make a sweeping generalization on the use of antidepressant medication.
The episode when her friend goes to the doctor to get a prescription for the pill is sad. Wendy paints the doctor as devoid of any sensitivity, when the only thing the woman was trying to do was her job. I found it downright pathetic the squeamishness that her friend experienced once at the doctor's office, but I find a million times more objectionable the account that Wendy makes of the episode.
Her quotes on Marx are quite ridiculous, which are not improved by her writing. It is almost as if she had reached a circular reference (see page 146).
She is right on when commenting on the loss of manners in our society. I notice an omnipresent lack of respect in our daily life, to the point that someone having a courteous gesture towards you is more of a surprise than the norm. But I fail to see the correlation between lack of modesty and lack of courtesy. Bad manners are an equal opportunity defect, affecting men and women alike.
No matter what, I agree with Wendy Shalit's thesis. As a society, we are oversexed. Women have gotten the short end of the stick after the sexual revolution of the 60's. It is indignant that fourth graders have to learn about masturbation and orgasms. And I am too an essentialist! I only wish Wendy had communicated her message better.