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Men From the notoriously contrarian author of Against Love a witty and probing examination of why badly behaved men have been her lifelong fascination on and off the pageIt's no secret that men often behave in intemperate ways but in recent years we've witnessed so many spectacular public displays of male excess—disgraced politicians erotically desperate professors fallen sports icons—that we're left to wonder whether something has come unwired in the collective male psycheIn the essays collected here Laura Kipnis revisits the archetypes of wayward masculinity that have captured her imagination over the years scrutinizing men who have figured in her own life alongside controversial public examples Slicing through the usual clichés about the differences between the sexes Kipnis mixes intellectual rigor and wit to give us compelling survey of the affinities jealousies longings and erotics that structure the male female bond I have never read Pride Prejudice but I picked up the basics of its plot uickly If you’ve never experienced it but have lived through a few years of American cultural productions it has seeped into you as well It was the radioactive spider bite that spawned an entire genre the gamma ray burst that even now continues to produce the next thousand years of romantic comedies You'll recognize the zippy dialogue you'll know the “will theywon’t they” plotline the dramatic irony Or perhaps if you are someone intimately familiar with the story you are right now yelling at your screen that I am dumb; that while it is clearly a comedy it is not the Ur romantic comedy You may continue to say perhaps that the inherent class divide between Elizabeth and Darcy reuired too much personal growth from both of them before they were ready for each other which runs counter to current rom com strictures which reuire two soulmates—perfect for each other from the get go—experiencing then overcoming a series of uirky events that conspire to hold them apartTo each of these nuanced approaches to the romantic comedy landscape I applaud the reader and recommend my heretofore unwritten review of Jane Austen’s Pride Prejudice In a move that would personally disgust me if someone claimed it for Song of Ice and Fire I have only watched the BBC miniseries yet am talking about the source material I thought the show was done well It was funny My points are in a slightly twisted way even a bit supported by my not having read it; the aura of “girl book” clings so heavily to the text that I see no other logical reason for it being left out of standard American curriculum in favor of stories like Hatchet Banner in the Sky Where the Red Fern Grows To Kill a Mockingbird Great Expectations Of Mice and Men and so forth aside from masculine posturing and fear of juvenile teasing Sometimes I wonder how often those concerns still motivate my behavior Men Notes From an Ongoing Investigation suffers from the same prejudice Sitting on the train the cover of my book a giant magnifying glass centered on the large typeface and boldly highlighted word “MEN” made me while not uncomfortable exactly at least aware of what I was afraid I looked like to others This concern never crossed my mind while reading the unsettlingly decorated Confessions of a Sociopath or this book with a d20 prominently displayed Self image is oddly fragileMen is funny and insightful tying various archetypes— caricatures—of masculinity to a modern personality and digressing from there Recognizing most of the names from their time exuded the same comfortable familiarity—without actual knowledge—that made Pride Prejudice so consumable I know Larry Flynt I know Carlos Danger I know Tiger Woods; I know Bridget Jones I know Keri Russell in Austenland I know Ross and Rachel But I didn’t know Andrea Dworkin Any woman who won’t admit to Dworkin’s belief that female sexuality is either specifically maligned or magnificently condescended to just enforces Dworkin’s view that we lose any capacity for self knowledge and honesty in sex since to the extent we reconcile ourselves to enjoying it our brains turn to mush Worse women transform themselves into pathetic sex scavengers wanting sensuality and tenderness but settling instead for “being owned and being fucked” as a substitute for the physical affection and approval we actually crave from men Women need male approval to be able to survive in our own skins and solicit it through sex; but obtaining sex means conforming in “body type and behavior” to what men like Given the vast amount of time energy and disposable income many of us invest in achieving and maintaining whatever degree of sexual attractiveness is feasible sometimes known as “fuckability” again it’s hard to argue Self knowledge might be the means to really knowing a lover in sex—the only thing that makes passion personal instead of generic—but self knowledge is impossible for women because having intercourse in the first place reuires eroticizing powerlessness and self annihilation If the argument seems tautological you’re getting the point fucking is a vortex and abyss a sinkhole from which you never emerge The author wraps these points these heavy points around a bemused tone torn straight from Elizabeth Bennet’s mouth Listen closely enough and you can almost hear her rebuking the Austen’s effigy for High Society stately old Catherine de Bourgh Yes Dworkin reads like a stampeding dinosaur in our era of bouncy pro sex post feminism Feminist anger isn’t exactly in fashion at the moment these days women just direct their anger inward or carp at individual men typically their hapless husbands and boyfriends Nevertheless the theme that sex injures women than men continues to percolate through culture though in a well meaning nibbled to death by ducks sort of way in books with titles like Unhooked How Young Women Pursue Sex Delay Love and Lose at Both or Girls Gone Mild Young Women Reclaim Self Respect and Find It’s Not Bad to Be Good The arm twisting subtitles tell you everything you need to know The general worry is that casual hookups have replaced dating young women are having too much sex and girls who are slutting around are never going to find husbands Besides which it’s supposed to be woman’s task to train men to act better than they do and this is no way to go about it Also with so many women hooking up with no strings attached things aren’t fair for girls who won’t These lengthy pull uotes do than liken the author to Lizzie Bennet; they provide context for what might be my favorite uote I’ve read this year All in all if I have to cast my vote for a sexual alarmist I’m for Dworkin the radical firebrand in lieu of the well meaning aunties Sex for her was catastrophic and disgusting but at least she wasn’t trying to spawn a generation of nice girls True she had no time for sexual experimentation—she disliked men too much to admit that nice girls stifled by conventionality and greedy for freedom have always pursued it by trying to act like men whether that means careers adventurism from Joan of Arc to Amelia Earhart or sleeping around Emulating men has its problems to be sure—they haven’t got it all figured out either other than how not to buy books telling them to have less sex which is probably why no one writes them For my money this in itself would be a condition to aspire to The storyline of Pride and Prejudice may not be the exact blueprint for the uirky star crossed romantic comedies that dominate the breezy zeitgeist of “ Love Instantly Forever and Indefinitely Pure” but it is an early illumination finding your own way—against society against family against her own pride She may have ended up with a husband but not because of fate—because of her own agency I too side with caustic extremism over banal platitudes; anything to avoid a generation of Janes who sit around sighing waiting for their smarter better sisters to fix their lives for them The title of this collection almost belies the wide range of topics Kipnis covers across 14 essays The cover is kitschy but the essays are deft especially The Lothario Gropers The Manly Man and Men Who Hate Hillary I appreciate Kipnis' fearlessness in skewering the men she covers while simultaneously poking fun at herself In fact some of the best moments in the collection are when she turns inward or identifies with less savory aspects of the men in uestion she illustrated men performing for a few crumbs of love with a story from her childhood where she pretended to know how to read by memorizing a Peter Rabbit bookincluding exactly when to turn the pages Her points about men's anxieties rewomen controlling the workplace and the home Men Who Hate Hillary and of the power dynamic between teachers and students Gropers feel spot on Overall a solid collection and looking forward to reading from Kipnis Having read this in tandem with Men Explain Things To Me by Rebecca Solnit herewith a double reviewLaura Kipnis is one of those happy warrior feminists whom I'm always keen to read Her essays on different types of men that's types with a big capital Greek T for topoi show command of gender theory and a willingness to poke fun at both the sexes I couldn't wait to see the next balloon punctured especially when she looks at modes of how men and women relate Written with wit insight and provocation this is the gleeful impish even type of book that asks us all to read a bit gender theory And to enjoy it instead of suffer itRebecca Solnit's collection of essays is not As in it is not witty nor laugh inducing nor attractive It's the sort of dour at least if you're a man feminist writing that scars young male undergraduates for life and discourages them from further reading in the discipline Moreover Solnit doesn't have the same solid grasp of gender theory as Kipnis Where the latter obviously knows her stuff so well that she can hide it in the subtext and manipulate ideas with ease the former retains that clunky men are bad blunt instrument so beloved of earnest writers I didn't learn how men explain things but I did learn that they can be jerks violent and generally unpleasantOf course as a man am I just keener on the attractive writing over the scolding To what extent does my self awareness as a man predispose me to prefer one of these books over the other Important uestions whenever we're talking about gender theory Well I tried I really did with Solnit And ignoring some of the man hating parts of the book I still couldn't get past the writing It was so earnest So heavy So self consciously New Yorker Whereas Kipnis develops her own style not needing to rely on such artifices but stands surely in the public suare on the strength of her own voice And that is admirable no matter who you are as a readerAlso on Twitter In her essays the author takes a look at men from the perspective of exposing certain negative traits and then finding some value in those faults not that she doesn't find many of the traits problematic in relationships between women and men For example she finds Larry Flynt the publisher of Hustler to be a smut peddler and Scumbag yet she finds some redeeming value in him because of his genuine support for the first amendment and other seemingly uncharacteristic acts of compassion She uses an old B movie to illustrate the flaws in a highly educated woman Psychiatrist who is taken by a con man who has street smarts versus her academic prowess; he is better at analyzing people than her and that's her area of expertise She takes shots at Tiger Wood's wife and his list of lovers all which are deserved She denounces author Naomi Wolf for her pathetic if not psychotic claim that her professor Harold Bloom made an unwanted sexual advance towards her and that she is still crying about it decades later Kipnis adds a very funny essay on Men Who Hate Hillary opining that many of her critics are obsessed with her although she provides ample anecdotes to support a basis for the criticisms In all she offers 15 essays that isolate distinctions between men and women in good bad and indifferent ways At the end of the day many of her observations are familiar but interesting She likes to use big words so keep your dictionary handy Facetiously I want to say not enough misandryIn a serious vein I was really disappointed by this I liked Kipnis' Against Love so was looking forward to reading this collection of essays Some of it was enjoyable enough I actually uite liked her Larry Flynt essay her essay about Andrea Dworkin and her essay about men who hate Hillary Clinton But other ones such as 'The Critic' and 'Cheaters' were dulllllllll and full of bland pop psychologising The ones that weren't dull were infuriating in 'The Manly Man' she presents a self congratulatory transcript of a debate she held with an old misogynistic guy meant no doubt to show how much she 'owned' him But to me it just reads like her rebutting conceptions about feminists in a really conventional and normalising way eg no it's not true that feminists are promiscuous instead of challenging the gendered social construction of 'promiscuity' itself To be honest this is a guy whose views are really uite abhorrent and I was frustrated by how much euinamity and flippant humour she approached the encounter with But she does admit in an earlier piece that she finds it hard to get worked up about much of anything at all even misogyny it seems My frustration turned to disgust in her essay 'Gropers' where in my interpretation at least she normalises and justifies sexual harassment against women see her sneering at Naomi Wolf's speaking out against the unwanted sexual advances made on her by a professor when she was younger One choice uote I fully agree that men have too much power thoughthat power continues to be propped up by women's fantasies about masculine icons Sowomen are in part to blame for patriarchy I almost abandoned the book at this point and only a dogged completionism made me carry on All in all a really strange mix between boring and infuriating I probably won't waste my time reading anything else she puts out in future I expected from this book dissection of men and lightheartedness The cover and title created that expectation instead I got essays that are almost incidentally about men which probably made it a stronger book The essays are well thought out and well written And although they aren't strictly speaking humor writing they do exude a certain flipness which at times is funny I didn't like this book well enough to look up the author's other books but based on her writing I don't know if that's entirely fair I would like to know about her views on feminism gender theory and politics because the glimpses she allowed of herself made her seem like a very interesting person There just weren't enough of them for my taste Laura Kipnis is one of those university professors whose lives I envy living in New York going to cocktail parties with other intellectuals and engaging in witty banter This book is largely about the kind of men you'd find at such parties literary critics political pundits other academics The exceptions are the first essay about Larry Flynt and the last about Andrea Dworkin So if you're looking for thoughts about your average man on the bus or the local hipster bar or anyone a non academic with a subscription to the New York Times might know you're out of luck Still an engaging read if not completely relevant to me At one point in my reading Goodreads in its infinite Twitter wisdom sent out the Tweet 88% done with Menwhich my younger brother promptly pounced upon I just wanted to let my little brother know that I am now completely done with MenPS After initially posting my review Goodreads asked me Which of your friends might enjoy Men Inuiring minds PPS This also just goes to show how important the right title can be Laura Kipnis a film studies professor who's made a name for herself in irreverent yet provocative writings on feminism collects a number of essays loosely strung together in this entertaining book I'm not sure that the title theme uite fits all the essays but they flow nicelyThe weakest essay imo Gropers covers material presented in her earlier book The Feminine Thing in which collegiate policy on facultystudent relationships prompts her to attend a training class and lead a mock rebellion of the attendees against the trite platitudes Although presented in chirpingly self congratulatory fashion the complaint about the impossibility in knowing whether advances are unwanted until made felt superficial and glib; the entire thing felt in some sense undeservedly juvenile But in this she develops a theory that melodramatic narrative has come to envelope the student experience and feminism Other essays feel stronger; she manages to flit from branch to branch and circle around to repeatedly nibble at an argument from different perspectives She draws upon both literature and film as references as when she discusses the magazine Hustler as an outlet of Rabelaisian perspective or addresses Sartre's bad faith argument in the context of his own biography as apparently a womanizer I ended up making a small list of books and works I should read based on her references Her background as someone who came of age in second wave feminism and academic Marxism is used to punctuate points in her casual dismissal of capitalism the job marked played women off against men to depress everyone's pay and her Freudian interpretations of pretty much everythingKipnis doesn't have a lot of answers but the essays are provocative and entertaining As she describes in Juicers she may not have infinite wells of outrage to fuel takedowns of moral turpitude and ethical lapses but that gives her just a little bit distance to consider them

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