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Alfred C. Kinsey : A Public/Private Life Hardcover – October 17, 1997


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 938 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (October 17, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393040860
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393040869
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,176,192 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This astonishing biography of Alfred Kinsey, the man who launched the sexual revolution, is graphically frank about his decidedly out-of-the-mainstream sexual practices (including masochism and voyeurism), yet historian James Jones doesn't exploit the material for titillation. Instead, Jones argues compassionately and persuasively that Kinsey's personal sexual demons sparked his campaign to demolish Victorian taboos about sex by gathering the scientific data eventually published in Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953). Jones reveals that the data were hardly as unbiased as Kinsey claimed, but it was world-shaking nonetheless. Alfred C. Kinsey: A Public/Private Life is a magnificent work of cultural history as well as a sensitive study of a troubled individual.

From Library Journal

Nearly 50 years after the publication of Kinsey's landmark studies on human sexual behavior, this scholarly biography honors "the high priest of sexual liberation." History professor Jones (Bad Blood, LJ 4/1/81) heralds Alfred Charles Kinsey as "among the most influential Americans of the twentieth century." Jones persuasively interprets Kinsey's life as an unrelenting struggle to use science to free himself from his own religious upbringing and the sexual guilt he knew as a boy. Jones reveals how Kinsey was a covert revolutionary who used science to lay siege to middle-class morality. Overall, Jones paints a brilliant picture of a controversial, dedicated scientist whose taxonomic research with insects eventually opened the Pandora's box that few realized was housed at the Institute for Human Sex Research in Bloomington, Indiana. Jones has some "shocking" revelations (Kinsey's "hidden agenda" and his homosexuality), but this fascinating biography provides insights into recent cultural history and a tormented man who exposed the prevailing norms of sexual conduct as national hypocrisy. Highly recommended.
-?James Swanton, Harlem Hosp. Lib., New York
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 29, 1997
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book on the strength of Richard Rhodes' review in the New York Times. Clearly, Kinsey was one of the key figures in biology and psychology during our century. Jones' book is a clearly written and well-documented journey through the whole of Kinsey's life, and provides a unique insight into the boy who was father to the man.
However, I found Jones' book slow going at first. The amount of material in the text seemed to be proportional to the research materials available, and not to its importance. The section detailing Kinsey's college years was particularly difficult for me.
My interest, and the pace of the book, picked up rapidly once Kinsey arrived at Indiana University. I agree with Rhodes that the book improves as it moves along. Jones states his basic premises about Kinsey's life right up front, and upon first being confronted with his descriptions of Kinsey's sadomasochistic and voyeuristic sexual practices my first reaction was, "Aww, c'mon". However, by the end of the book, his interpretations were so well-argued and well-documented that I had no choice but to agree with Jones' conclusions about Kinsey the man as well as Kinsey the researcher.
The most fascinating aspect of the book was Jones' insight into the culture of science in pre-World War II America. He never allows this to dominate the text, but it is an important subtext throughout.
Overall, this is the best book I've read on the history of science since Rhodes' The Making of the Atomic Bomb. In my opinion, Kinsey was to human psychology what Oppenheimer was to physics: a man, deeply-flawed as all of us are, thrust by history into unusual circumstances who ultimately changes the world around him.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Blaine Greenfield on April 10, 1998
Format: Hardcover
i had not known too much about kinsey until i read this book . . . now i know perhaps even more than i watnted to know (the book is nearly 1,000 pages). . . however, it was never dull . . . and would be of interest to readers interested in books about higher education, the mdeia, public rleations, statistics, politics, and yes, sex also! . . . i recommend the book!
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Format: Hardcover
Alfred C. Kinsey A Public/Private Life. By James H. Jones
This is a remarkable biography on several counts. First, the depth and extent of the research is extraordinary. The documentation is extensive. The prose and flow of the narrative reads like a classic novel. The reader is drawn along as in a mystery. Jones slowly unfolds the life of a complex man, finally revealing the vast difference between Kinsey’s public professorial persona and his unusual personal life. What is most remarkable is how Jones avoids any judgment or even comments of Kinsey’s unusual sexual practices. He reports these behaviors dispassionately with the same detachment as he would report a dull chess match. The book provides a clear understanding of what Kinsey accomplished and what drove him to do what he did.
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23 of 39 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 19, 1999
Format: Hardcover
James Jones's biography of Alfred c Kinsey is a valuable antidote to the hagiographies and demonologies published so far. Jones presents the nastier sides of his subject's personality and exposes his strategically concealed sexual practices. However, Jones presents Kinsey as a pervert and charlatan, failing to understand the moral and scientific rationales for Kinsey's approach to sex research and thus totally misrepresents both the man and his achievement. Jones's last-page sop to Kinsey's greatness seems to be a cowardly after-thought to a bilious, splenetic and angry book.
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