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Alfred C. Kinsey: A Life Paperback – November 17, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 938 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (November 17, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393327248
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393327243
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 5.4 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,043,920 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

A fascinating account of a fantastic American. -- The New Republic

A masterly, disturbing biography. -- Washington Post Book World

About the Author

James H. Jones is the award-winning author of Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment and Alfred C. Kinsey: A Life. An independent scholar, he lives in San Francisco, California.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on December 13, 2004
Format: Paperback
Alfred Kinsey is a hero to everyone who believes in what Kinsey called sexual variation -- the notion that sexuality is deep, broad, somewhat ungovernable, highly individualized, difficult to judge and a fundamental expression of one's self. For these folks, Kinsey outed all of us (and high time, too), opening a healthy and necessary global discussion on sexual preference, choice and predilection.

Equally, Kinsey is a demon to everyone who believes that the phrase "sexual deviant" means something, and who subscribes to the notion that, somewhere in the 1950s, US culture lost its way in a maze of permissiveness and perversion. For thse folks, that maze was designed in large measure by Kinsey.

Kinsey's devotees will find this biography unsettling. Jones gives us a wonderfully rich and detailed view of just how deeply Kinsey's own needs (and blindnesses) informed his work and the work of his team, and how (consciously or otherwise) Kinsey's quest for self-validation led him to concoct (no other word will do, it seems to me) validation for all those like him who could not find their sexual self-images in the rather poverty-stricken catalog available in the 1950s and before.

Kinsey-haters, while clapping gleefully at all that Jones reveals about the flaws behind Kinsey's path-breaking work (Mister Y in particular), will also be disturbed by this book. Jones doesn't demonize Kinsey, or, if he does, he makes of Kinsey a Lucifer: a bringer of light, an arrogant, fallen angel, a friend of humankind. It is impossible, it seems to me, to read this truly great book and not conclude that, flawed and conflicted as he was, Kinsey was doing the work of the angels -- that his research did open, in an unforecloseable way, the facticity of sexual variation in the human species.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 20, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Jones' biography recounts the life of Alfred C. Kinsey in vivid detail. Kinsey was a complex man. He was a staunch scientist, a visionary crusader for social reform, an intellectual rebel, but more importantly, he was a flesh-and-bone human being with conflicting desires and needs.

Ultimately, Jones manages to provide a balanced account of Kinsey's life and ideas. The book traces the transformation of a middle-class, devoutly Protestant, and reserved individual into an outspoken critic of the oppressive heteronormative sexual paradigm of the status quo.

Nor does Jones shy away from criticizing some of Kinsey's more pronounced personal and intellectual shortcomings. Yet, were it not for some these flaws, Kinsey might have never embarked on his secular crusade to liberate the world from the chains of sexual repression.

Alfred C. Kinsey rightfully deserves his place in the annals of history. Kinsey taught us how to embrace the complexities of our own sexual desires, unfettered by irrational social taboos.

In spite of its length--at a whopping 832 pages long--Jones' biography is well worth reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Chris Ward VINE VOICE on March 25, 2014
Format: Paperback
Alfred Kinsey is one of the few scientists who crossed over into popular culture-- a name everybody knew-- because of his subject matter: sex. By dispassionately studying human sexual behavior as he'd study the behavior of insects, he took censorious moral judgments out of the equation and presented cold hard data. (His critics would disagree.) The publication of this data caused an uproar that still reverberates more than 60 years later. This is Kinsey's story-- Kinsey the man.

Jones delves deep into Kinsey's savagely repressive youth, causing any reader to develop a compassion for him. As he excels in his career as an entymologist, we see him driven by this early upbringing to do exhaustive research that would have made most people simply give up. He brought this same almost maniacal focus to his work in human sexuality, gathering about him a dedicated coterie of scientists whom he inspired to similar levels of dogged research. At no time did he allow conventional concepts of "right" and "wrong" to enter in-- dispassionate data collection was the goal. Along the way, however, the very human story Jones tells becomes very complicated and reveals the horde of demons that drove Kinsey-- and his team-- into sometimes disturbing territory. Challenging taboos is dangerous work, Kinsey paid the price.

This is a detailed though never boring portrait of a fascinating scientific and cultural figure. I found it to be a powerful reading experience.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mark A Roeder on February 10, 2013
Format: Paperback
This is probably the most inaccurate biography of Kinsey available. The allegations and conclusions are not supported by evidence. At times, the author's own evidence disproves his accusations. It is clear the author has his own agenda and that is to demonize Kinsey. The author has ignored the facts to push his alternative history of Kinsey. It's really too bad books like this can be presented as non-fiction. For a scholarly and factual biography of Kinsey, read "Sex The Measure of All Things: A LIfe of Alred C. Kinsey" by Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy.
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0 of 13 people found the following review helpful By David on October 24, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I haven't had a chance to read the book yet but I'm sure it's an excellent book it came on time and in excellent condition
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