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In Praise of Messy Lives: Essays Hardcover – September 4, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: The Dial Press; First Edition edition (September 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812992822
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812992823
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #94,131 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In her latest essay collection, controversy-magnet Roiphe (Uncommon Arrangements, 2007) addresses a felicitous assortment of subjects, from travels in Asia to Jane Austen. The book’s enticing title stems from her analysis of the “enormous popularity” of the television series Mad Men and its cigarette-smoke-laced, alcohol-fueled interpretation of “the glamour of spectacularly messy, self-destructive behavior.” What’s most interesting is how Roiphe turns the camera, so to speak, on the socially correct, health-obsessed habits of today’s new puritanism, and on her feminist writer mother, Anne Roiphe, whose memoir, Art and Madness (2011) records her experiences during the Mad Men era. Roiphe is equally bracing—and hilarious—in her dissection of the Fifty Shades of Grey craze. Roiphe writes with an archer’s aim and a bullfighter’s bravado. While it’s true that the world she dissects is an elite one, it is also highly influential. And her cultural soundings do run deep, whether she’s critiquing incest in literature; sex scenes in Roth, Mailer, and Updike versus Franzen, Chabon, and Wallace; or, from a more personal stance, entrenched attitudes toward divorce and single mothers. --Donna Seaman

Review

“[A] devastatingly good new book . . . Ms. Roiphe’s are how you want your essays to sound: lean and literate, not unlike Orwell’s, with a frightening ratio of velocity to torque. . . . Among Ms. Roiphe’s gifts is one for brevity. She lingers long enough to make her points, and no longer. If I could condense my opinion of her new book onto a T-shirt, that Beefy-T would read: ‘Team Roiphe.’” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“Watch out, Camille Paglia! Your starring role as our leading literary provocateur might be threatened by 44-year-old Katie Roiphe, whose book In Praise of Messy Lives I’m sending to a dozen friends for Christmas. Daring, vivid, combative . . . the refreshing irreverence of her book might well be unique among writers of her generation.” —Francine du Plessix Gray, Wall Street Journal

“The 10 literary essays at the heart of In Praise of Messy Lives are wicked and endearing; the language is conversational and burnished to a hard shine.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Bracing . . . and hilarious. . . . Roiphe writes with an archer’s aim and a bullfighter’s bravado. . . . her cultural soundings do run deep.” —Booklist

“Fascinating, lively . . . Roiphe is a fine, serious writer. Her essays are surprising, interesting and sharp. . . .her voice is confident and consistent.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Roiphe’s writing is prickly and provocative . . . courageous, and most welcome when it cuts deep.” —Publisher's Weekly
 
“No sacred cow, exalted personage, or sanctimonious hypocrisy is safe from the sharp eye of Katie Roiphe. In In Praise of Messy Lives, she delivers timely, coruscating verdicts on everything from working women’s fantasies to Philip Roth to the rage of Gawker. An essential read for our cultural confusion.” —Tina Brown
 
“Katie Roiphe does not so much explode pieties as slice them open and prod their strands apart with equal parts rigor and transfixed, childlike curiosity. In Praise of Messy Lives represents a warm, freethinking, and satisfying embrace of the inartificial, the vexed, and the unruly.” —Alison Bechdel
 
“Katie Roiphe is one of the most insightful, exciting writers of her generation. She’s daring, fierce, and entirely original.” —Gay Talese

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Brody TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I just finished reading In Praise of Messy Lives: Essays by Katie Roiphe. I found it to be enjoyable and intellectually stimulating. Since she writes one of her essays on people who comment on articles (could this be similar to those of us who review books of essays?), I want to be as civilized and articulate as possible. I chose to read and finish the book, therefore my comments should reflect that.

Ms. Roiphe writes about a wide range of topics. They include single motherhood and the public's perception of single mothers and their children; divorce and its impact on 'family'; betrayal; how great male writers write about sex; the fact that there has not been a comprehensive history of women's writing in America; the role of women behind great men; the impersonal nature of Joan Didion's memoirs; the fragility of Susan Sontag beneath her strong exterior; John Updike's being perceived as a misogynistic writer; Mad Men on TV; the popularity of Fifty Shades of Gray; Maureen Dowd; the repetitiveness and similarity of articles about movie stars; women not liking Hillary Clinton; parents who try to have perfect children are doomed for failure. This is only a small portion of the issues and topics that Ms. Roiphe writes about. As you can see, they are varied and interesting.

My two favorite essays were the ones on Graham Greene and writing about incest. In the essay about Graham Greene, she discusses her own personal interest in the writer and how she reflected on him during her travels to the far east. She explores the concept of transactions, especially how female companionship is so often for sale.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gary C. Marfin on June 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover
First: “In Praise of Messy Lives,” is a provocative, insightful, quite often funny and, in more than a few places, even wise book. I would have preferred “The Messy Lives Tour” as a title, but “In Praise of” does do more to elevate the cause. The tour consists of thirty, wide-ranging chapters, but don’t worry about the official guide: readers can start the messy lives tour wherever they want and visit the varied sights in whatever sequence suits their disposition.

Along the way, Ms. Roiphie provides an intelligent assessment of sex and its treatment in some of my favorite, and increasingly discredited male novelists, offers insightful chapters on Joan Didion and Susan Sontag, and throws in an all too short stop at Alexis, whose Facebook photograph shows Alexis in fishnet thigh highs, and crazy platforms holding a whip over her head. “

Prominent among the messy lives surveyed is Katie’s Roiphie’s own. Ms. Roiphie describes the mess early-on: “I have two children, with two different fathers, neither of whom I am living with. It did take me a while to achieve quite this level of messiness, but I did it in the end.”

On the perverse, if well-intended practice of parenthood at this point in the 21st century, Roiphie delivers an often humorous, and largely sound critique.
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14 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on December 19, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
One or two of the essays are okay and have some insight. But the rest are really awful. She will make one point in the first couple of paragraphs and then belabor it over and over in a not very original way. I really expected something very good but thought these essays were extremely dull. I loved the subject and the one about the messy lives was good but not worth buying for one good one. Really a dull book. A rare book that I wish I had my money back. Dogmatic, pendantic and truly awful. The highest expectations for the dullest book of the year.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lauren on August 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Roiphe's writing is analytic as well as captivating. I am recommending this book to everyone, regardless of the level of education or gender.
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By Carol P. Mills on May 6, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Clever. Insightful. Loved it and made my sister read it immediately! An insiders look at women's (my!) life. I know this existence!
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By Marie Keefe on April 23, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Nice collection of essays covering different topics. Some content I agreed with, some not so much, but the book certainly generated lots of interesting discussion in our book club! Worth reading with an open mind!!
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful By peri nearon on February 27, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I thought the beginning of this book showed great promise, and I recommended it to several women friends before getting too far into it. And then it just fell flat, lost its point altogether and I gave up on it ...... So in fairness, I did not finish the book. That said, I generally will slog thru all but the worst once I make a book purchase.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Adrian Smith on July 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Katie Roiphe's collection of rigorously thoughtful essays challenges and untangles the status quo on topics like literature, politics, gender dynamics, parenting, social media, sex, and TV. She's earned a reputation as a button-pushing contrarian, and I can see how some of her thoughts could be misunderstood without the full context of a complete piece, but In Praise of Messy Lives' essays are loaded with clear support for their ideas. Roiphe's commitment to exploring deeper truth doesn't prioritize readers' comfort. She's way too honest and curious for that.

There's an engaging current of literary and feminist analysis flowing through the pages, but it's not heavy-handed, so you'll be fine if those are unfamiliar waters. I'd imagine fans of Joan Didion and David Foster Wallace's non-fiction will find a lot to enjoy here, though Roiphe is a little more rock and roll than either of them in her rejection of conformity, a little more DGAF.

In Praise of Messy Lives is a serious book about not being so serious all the time. It's unconventional and direct so it can be uncomfortable, but what's wrong with that?
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