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How to Become a Scandal: Adventures in Bad Behavior Hardcover – August 31, 2010

3.7 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Product Description
We all relish a good scandal—the larger the figure (governor, judge) and more shocking the particulars (diapers, cigars)—the better. But why do people feel compelled to act out their tangled psychodramas on the national stage, and why do we so enjoy watching them, hurling our condemnations while savoring every lurid detail?

With "pointed daggers of prose" (The New Yorker), Laura Kipnis examines contemporary downfall sagas to lay bare the American psyche: what we desire, what we punish, and what we disavow. She delivers virtuoso analyses of four paradigmatic cases: a lovelorn astronaut, an unhinged judge, a venomous whistleblower, and an over-imaginative memoirist. The motifs are classic—revenge, betrayal, ambition, madness—though the pitfalls are ones we all negotiate daily. After all, every one of us is a potential scandal in the making: failed self-knowledge and colossal self-deception—the necessary ingredients—are our collective plight. In How to Become a Scandal, bad behavior is the entry point for a brilliant cultural romp as well as an anti-civics lesson. "Shove your rules," says scandal, and no doubt every upright citizen, deep within, cheers the transgression—as long as it's someone else's head on the block.

Amazon Exclusive: Tina Brown, Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Beast, Reviews How to Become a Scandal

A brilliant curtain-raiser on exactly why it’s so delicious to watch self-destruction, How to Become a Scandal is a must-read for anyone unable to look away from another’s fall from grace. Laura Kipnis argues that it takes two to make a scandal and cuts through the tangled relationship between the scandalized victims and us as the voyeurs, noting that the audience is equally to blame for whipping up such frenzy. A thoughtful and juicy take on familiar targets (Linda Tripp and the NASA love triangle among them), Kipnis sees what we all do: some scandals are just thinly veiled self-sabotage. And the best stories aren’t self-contained; they’re far-reaching, full-blooded dramas, complete with a cast of characters who overtake the global stage. Of course, scandal’s an all-inclusive monster, but a bigger star and more disturbing details make for an even better flameout. Kipnis astutely points out that the ceremonial shunning of whistleblowers, plagiarists, and cheaters is cathartic and neatly packages something amorphous: why America jumps on the wagon all over again each time someone violates social mores with lust and betrayal and jealousy. Reading her clever book is like sitting in a front-row seat at Scandal Theory 101—and serves as a cautionary tale for those tiptoeing on the edges of indignity. Revisiting the denouements of James Frey, Sol Wachtler et al is a strangely elegant exercise in how to crash, burn, and ultimately survive. How to Become a Scandal is as transfixing and engrossing as the tremendously chaotic tales she recounts with exacting detail.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Two very public downfalls and two very public uproars guide us through the contemporary infernal regions of scandal: the downfall of the lovelorn astronaut, Lisa Nowak, and an unreasonable judge, Sol Wachter, and the uproar set off by Linda Tripp and James Frey. Familiar as they may be, Kipnis (Against Love) freshly illuminates her subjects' plights, while scrutinizing the public delight in their misfortune, wearing her learning so lightly that the reader is easily seduced by her quick wit and her camouflaged erudition. Kipnis ties psychoanalysis and reality TV, detectives and literary critics, talk show hosts and sociologists, along with the scandalizers and the scandalized into a persuasive bundle: Scandals aren't just fiascoes other people get themselves embroiled in while the rest of us go innocently about our business, she argues. e all have crucial roles to play. A deliciously flippant tone serves the reader the juicy details we savor so about scandal, while tossing in some timeless questions and speculations about the deeper meaning of it all ( free will, moral luck, the stranglehold of desire, the difference between right and wrong ) as though they were mere garniture. This is a dead serious book that's an utter lark to read.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; Reprint edition (August 31, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805089799
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805089790
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #899,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ladybug TOP 500 REVIEWER on August 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I have read and enjoyed some of Laura Kipnis' other work, including Against Love and The Female Thing. I was excited to read How to Become a Scandal. I am surprised to say, though, that the book was actually very boring. There were definitely funny moments, but, for the most part, Kipnis was not able to contribute anything new, insightful, or even interesting to the four well-known, already overly talked about scandals she addresses. Kipnis may have benefited from a bit more editing, but, as it is, the book felt sprawling, aimless, and just plain disappointing.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I live in a small community and the most startling aspect is how common increasingly bad and general shocking behavior occurs. It is as tho' negative attention is truly better than no attention at all and this actually has me curious.

"How to Become a Scandal" is filed under sociology and psychology which is misleading. Laura Kipknis is actually a professor of Radio/TV/Film and tho' she often references the likes of Freud and she is quite honest and upfront in her angles. She is discussing topics that capture 'her' attention and interest, not because they offer in significant solutions, credibility, or intellectual stimulation in the field of irregular mental behaviors. Nope! Ms. Kipknis is very honest and upfront in her true intentions: She just wants to dish.

The entire book is based on her own conjecture and speculations as to why these four very specific individuals were motivated to do what they did. It is not a particularly educated treatise or even based on actual psychological analysis so I really didn't find out what I was hoping to learn. In fact I wound up getting so depressed over Ms. Kipknis ongoing salacious flagellation of these, admittedly warped souls I was unable to finish.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It's obvious from other reviews that many readers love Ms. Kipnis' writing style and the content of her book. I hesitate to rate the book since I personally did not enjoy either her writing style or the way she handled her subject. I found her extremely lengthy and convoluted sentences irritating. I had also hoped for a more academic study of the topic but felt as if I was reading a tabloid written for PhD's who don't want anyone to catch them picking up the National Enquirer at their local market. I felt that Ms. Kipnis spent far more time rehashing and relishing the scandals she reports than she did offering any information that would explain the phenomenon.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I am assuming that the reader of the review can read the description of the book, so I won't spend too much time on that. The main subjects of the book are four: Lisa Kowak, the astronaut famous for her confrontation with a romantic rival; Sol Wachtler, former Chief Justice of the New York State Court of Appeals who harassed a former lover; Linda Tripp who manipulated Monica Lewinsky and revealed her affair; and James Frey, fantasist memoir writer.

I don't think this quite deserves blurber Jacob Weisberg's description as cultural criticism of the highest order, but with one cavil, I enjoyed the book and found it thought-provoking. Reading about the self-destruction of most of the people cited herein, I couldn't help thinking about my own self-destructive and foolish impulses, one's inability to see oneself as others see us, and the fragility of self-insight. The scandals are explored in some detail, which is much more satisfying that reading about bits and pieces, especially since some of these unfolded over a fairly lengthy period of time. The information is also sourced, which raises the reliability above the scandal magazines, or someone just trying to throw together a quickie book that sells. Kipnis makes some interesting points along the way, she is witty, insightful, and sometimes compassionate. I personally love this sort of tragi-comedy, which is not going to be to everyone's taste. Someone who enjoys it might also like Jennifer Wright's It Ended Badly: Thirteen of the Worst Breakups in History

Criticism tends to get longer than praise, so I don't want the following to detract too much from my praise of the book.
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Format: Hardcover
I have never met Ms. Kipnis and have nothing to gain or lose by commenting on her work. I am a financial professional but have a strong interest in historical writing and memoir. I read Professor Kipnis's earlier work Against Love a few years ago, and just finished this newer work, a cultural criticism of scandal. I enjoyed both books and think that the second one is even better than the first.

Rather than summarizing this work I will tell what I like about it:
o Ms. Kepnis has a great vocabulary and her writing has zing.
o She displays a courageous and penetrating intellect. She is not afraid to be smart.
o Her work is replete with original insights and perspectives.
o Her grasp of human psychology is astute and interesting.
o She successfully combined narrative and analysis and the book is fun to read.
o She took on a huge topic, but didn't allow herself to get bogged down. She chose four excellent examples and made her argument succinctly.

Since I am interested in memoir I particularly enjoyed her description of the strengths and limitations of this genre, and her specific comments about the scandal surrounding James Frey and Opra Winfrey. I recommend this work to anyone who is attempting to write a memoir or just enjoys reading them. I also recommend it to Oprah Book Club members, or to anyone who reads the New York Post. The work is a fascinating analysis of what draws people to this type of writing (I am one of them).

Buy this book.
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