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Against Love: A Polemicby Laura Kipnis
Synopses & Reviews
"Will all the adulterers in the room please stand up?" So begins Laura Kipnis's profoundly provocative and waggish inquiry into our never-ending quest for lasting love, and its attendant issues of fidelity and betrayal. In the tradition of social critiques such as Christopher Lasch's The Culture of Narcissism, Against Love keenly examines the meaning and cultural significance of adultery, arguing that perhaps the question concerns not only the private dilemma of whether or not to be faithful, but also the purpose of this much vaunted fidelity.
With a novelist's eye for detail, psychological acuity, and linguistic panache, Kipnis at once humorously and seriously explores the rules and rituals of modern coupledom and domesticity (from the establishment of curfews and whereabouts to actual searches and seizures), even as she deftly analyzes the larger power structures that they serve. She wonders: Might adulterers be regarded not only as sexual renegades but as unwitting social theorists posing essential political questions about the social contract itself? What is the trade-off between personal gratification and the renunciations society demands of us? And is "working at your relationship" just another way of propping up the work ethic — as if we weren't all overworked enough as it is? If adultery is ultimately a referendum on the sustainability of monogamy, how credible is the basic premise of modern coupledom: that desire for your one and only love can and will persist through a lifetime of togetherness (despite so much evidence to the contrary)?
Against Love offers no easy answers. Rather it intends to engage you in a commonsensical and brave examination of the plight of the modern personality, caught between the vicissitudes of desire and the decrees of social conformity.
"[R]agingly witty yet contemplative....[A] razor-sharp intelligence and a gleeful sense of irony....Kipnis balances her scintillating, on-target observations...with an honest sense of compassion for human experience." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"[A] deft indictment of the marital ideal, as well as a celebration of the dissent that constitutes adultery, delivered in pointed daggers of prose." Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker
"[A] joyous, incisive tract in praise of adultery....Against Love proves delightfully paradoxical: didactic and playful, intellectual and entertaining, high-brow yet eminently readable." Baz Dreisinger, The New York Observer
"Against Love is more an adolescent's rant than an insightful look into the real problems of marriage....[Kipnis] eschews argument in favor of a scatter-gun approach of provocative apercus." Selina O'Grady, The San Francisco Chronicle
"[A] timely and entertaining cherry bomb of a book....Reading Against Love is like watching a great episode of Sex and the City — only with Samantha narrating instead of that dreary moralist Carrie." Sharon Ullman, The Boston Globe
"The tone's light, even playful, but the thesis is fundamentally serious....An intelligent, literate, and allusive take that raises many intriguing questions, even if it doesn't always answer them." Kirkus Reviews
"Kipnis writes with clarity and humor about our relationship foibles and offers provocative alternatives. Not a good read for romantics and advocates of traditional family values but recommended for everyone else..." Library Journal
"[Kipnis] possesses the gleeful, viperish wit of a Dorothy Parker and the energetic charisma of a cheerleader....Kipnis' exaggerated polemic romp is wittily invigorating..." Meghan O'Rourke, Slate.com
"[W]onderfully clever, deliciously written....Kipnis blends journalistic pizazz and philosophical nerve....Whether you agree or not, Kipnis' crackling colloquial style keeps Against Love rollicking forward, often hilariously." Carlin Romano, The Philadelphia Inquirer
"Against Love is a wonderfully provocative book, daring and incisive, written with verve and no small amount of humor. It raises a thousand questions most of us lack the courage to ask, about domestic life and even the meaning of the human enterprise, while remaining at every instant a delight to read." Scott Turow
"Laura Kipnis's witty and cunning treatise against modern love is as trenchant and unexpected, as jubilantly incendiary a work of social criticism as I've read in years. It is an explosive pleasure." Edward Hirsch
"Deeply subversive, tough-minded, clear-thinking, provocative and shrewd, Against Love has the nerve to wonder out loud if marriage has evolved into an instrument of social control. Yet what's so winning about Kipnis's manifesto is its high-spirited lack of cynicism; she is not so much against love as for honesty." James Atlas
Laura Kipnis begins by evoking a tempestuous adulterous affair and uses it to examine the cultural meaning of adultery. She argues, with a light touch but to profound effect, that adulterers might not be mere sexual renegades but, in some way, social theorists posing serious political questions about the social contract. Operating outside socially sanctioned intimacy, they might possibly be determining to what extent our society demands the renunciation of desire and pleasure in favor of the work ethic. "This is not a self-help book," Kipnis writes, "on how to fix your marriage, conduct hot love affairs, or solve love's endemic problems....It shifts the terms of engagement from the usual moralisms onto an altogether different terrain. For perhaps the question isn't only the private dilemma of whether or not to be faithful, but what this much vaunted fidelity is actually directed to." Against Love examines modern love on a societal rather than an individual plane and offers a bracing utopian vision against which we may judge our lives. It is certain to be a lightning rod for widespread attention and controversy.
Kipnis begins by evoking a tempestuous adulterous affair and uses it to examine the cultural meaning of adultery. "Against Love" examines modern love on a societal rather than an individual plane and offers a bracing utopian vision against which readers may judge their lives.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 203-207).
About the Author
Laura Kipnis is a professor of media studies at Northwestern University. She has received fellowships and grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She has published numerous essays and articles on sexual politics and contemporary culture both here and abroad.
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