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.