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Editorial Reviews Review

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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (September 14, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375719326
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375719325
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #142,444 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Laura Kipnis is a cultural critic and essayist whose work focuses on sexual politics, emotion, acting out, bad behavior, and various other crevices of the American psyche. Her latest book is MEN: Notes from an Ongoing Investigation; her previous books, which include How To Become a Scandal and Against Love, have been translated into fifteen languages. Her essays and reviews have appeared in Slate, Harpers, The Nation, Bookforum, Playboy, and The New York Times. (She is also a former video artist whose work has been shown and broadcast around the world.) Kipnis is the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, a Rockefeller fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts grants, and Yaddo fellowships. She's also a professor in the Radio-TV-Film department at Northwestern, where she teaches film making. She lives in Chicago and New York.

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

69 of 75 people found the following review helpful By C. Brown on September 8, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Kipnis romps through this book with such enthusiasm, it's a delight to read. She looks in every nook and cranny of relationships and holds forth expansively. What a sharp, clever mind is at work.

We're asked to consider many things about relationships, not just marriage and not just heterosexual relationships...why is it such a difficult thing for two people to get along, let alone love, over an extended period of time? She rightly says that the 50% divorce rate doesn't include the people who remain in marriages of misery. Kipnis offers adultery as a way in which people can feel the rush of coming to life, but she doesn't hesitate to describe the difficulties of taking that route and that it can easily be only a temporary escape. Why does our culture almost desperately hold marriage up as a standard, even while many of those promoting it most seem to have the greatest difficulty practicing what they preach?

When I finished the book I thought of the Buddhist idea that the source of suffering is desire. I also thought of how our society promotes desire as a universal good that should be followed at all times, particularly if the path leads into a store. Is it just a coincidence that while I am shopping for food at the grocery store I can hear love songs being played over the public address system? We want people to want, the encouragement, the inducement is constant. It drives our economy. With every taboo falling or fallen we are consumed with desire without restraint, arriving at our destiny as perfect consumers.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 16, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Reading Laura Kipnis' Against Love: A Polemic, is a guilty pleasure, like drinking an extra glass of wine at dinner. In a dazzling display of wit, social science, and chutzpah, Kipnis takes on the prevailing ideal of monogamy and makes a case that monogamy is not the not the blissful byproduct of a committed love-match, but a social contract that serves to police and oppress both parties involved. The heros of marriage, in Kipnis' view, are the adulterers, boldly striking out against chafing domestic bonds.
In the chapter titled, "Domestic Gulags," Kipnis rebuts the idea that lasting relationships are hard work. "When monogamy becomes labor, when desire is organized contractually, with accounts kept and fidelity extracted like labor from employees, with marriage as a domestic factory policed by means of rigid shop-floor discipline designed to keep the wives and husbands and domestic partners of the world choke-chained to the status quo machinery-is this really what we mean by a `good relationship'?" (19). Kipnis holds up adultery as the acting-out of what our collective social unconscious already holds true. ". . . if adultery is a de facto referendum on the sustainability of monogamy-and it would be difficult to argue that it's not-this also makes it the nearest thing to a popular uprising against the regimes of contemporary coupledom (28). The current and rising levels of divorce and the increase in complicated extended family grouping (one expert calls it a family shrub instead of a family tree-because families now tend to grow horizontally, with exes and steps and ex-steps, etc.
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42 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Dipietro on September 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
To steal a query from S.J.Perelman (and if you're going to pilfer a witticism, he da man), does anybody mind if I make love in public? After reading Kipnis' book, I feel liberated, as if a weight has been lifted from my shoulders, as if I am at long last breathing great lungfuls of clear intellectual purity after a lifetime among the broken-spirited, colorless drudges and cat's paws of capitalistic romantic fantasy. Kipnis, you're my dream girl of the neo-Marxist relationship polemicists.
This is actually a pretty good read if you're comfortable with the smart-arsed academic, tongue-in-cheek variety. There is a completely unnecessary but fun-to-read bit at the beginning about what Kipnis intends through the polemic form, and like most books written on wide ranging subjects by the professoriat, Kipnis keeps so many argumentative balls in the air at once it's like watching a Benzedrined juggler. But the notion that adulterers are a species of avant gardists who are necessarily challenging the confines and assumptions of a social institution that needs some serious thought--if not a complete overhaul--is not without merit. (Actually, it's got a lot of merit, if you give her arguments half a chance.) That we are all in thrall of the notion of monogamous domestic coupledom, and use it almost as a substitute for notions of God in a secular world, or as something approaching an Aristotelian Form, is actually pretty consonant with the evidence. Almost everybody buys into the notion that a "True Love" is "out there somewhere," that it's just a question of object (the right person--you know "The One") but almost nobody questions these things. Or that the only receptacle for adult love is religiously sanctified, state sanctioned permanent monogamy.
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