WHY DO WOMEN WRITE MORE LETTERS THAN THEY SEND?

A MEDITATION ON THE LONELINESS OF THE SEXES

An abstruse ``collage of observations and explanations'' about sexuality, whose British psychoanalyst author—inspired by the obscurantist Jacques Lacan—plays by his own rhetorical rules. Not for Leader (Lacan for Beginners, not reviewed) the conventions of serious argument: From the outset he promises lots of generalizations, commitment to questions rather than the systematic development of hypotheses, and an avoidance of authoritative footnotes or quotations. Thus licensed to zigzag with more imagination than discipline around some fertile psychosexual terrain, he seeks to excavate the deepest differences between men and women; mostly, however, he obfuscates tirelessly. Concerning jealousy, for example, he says that ``what a man is really jealous of is not another man but the sexuality of the opposite sex.'' Or on love, which for a man is ``ultimately addressed to a lack'' and for a woman is ``linked to the order of causality: The partner's lack must be guaranteed by her.'' Illustrations from the plot of an 18th-century Italian novel hardly make the preceding more accessible, although generally Leader finds support for his positions in skewed interpretations of more familiar literary and cultural references: the Audrey Hepburn role in Love in the Afternoon, the comedies of Shakespeare, even the marriage of Claudia Schiffer to magician and escape artist David Copperfield. As a woman, Leader writes, Schiffer must welcome the fact that part of the carnal appeal of her husband is ``the empty space left by his departure.'' Less surprising is Leader's linkage of a pregnant woman's food cravings with cannibalistic fantasies toward her child; ditto his explanation of why Virginia Woolf ``could never have a Room of her Own: Her father was always in there with her.'' He thrives on paradoxes: ``What . . . is the function of memory if not to allow us to forget?'' Madness over method, and defeatingly arcane.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 1997

ISBN: 0-465-09169-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1997

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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