Shrill, tedious and heavy-handed—even if occasionally funny and often right on the mark.




A grumpy cri de coeur against sensitivity, political correctness, obesity and other hallowed American ideals.

Strausbaugh, who attained nirvanic dyspepsia with Rock ’Til You Drop: The Decline from Rebellion to Nostalgia (2001), is rapidly becoming a garden-variety curmudgeon who’s beginning to sound a lot like someone’s crotchety grandpa—or maybe Andy Rooney. “We’re not just fat, we’re not just lazy, we’re not just conformists, we’re not just narcissists . . . We’re all those things and all the others, rolled up into one big, soft, squishy ball,” he writes, cataloguing what he calls the “Perfect Storm of Sissitude.” He hastens to add, in a PC spasm, that sissy does not equal gay, though he atones at once by characterizing former President Jimmy Carter as someone who “let a bunch of Iranian college students and a bearded lunatic spank him like their bitch on the global stage. God, how humiliating. President Bottom. Nothing against submissives, but who wants one for president?” The rhetoric is about that shallow throughout, and the rest of the book trades in similar gripes against just about anyone who comes along, especially if that anyone is overweight (“Holstein People” is one of Strausbaugh’s nicer epithets). The author’s approach is to aim at the barn and see what boards rattle, and sometimes it works: For one thing, he’s on the money when he links strip clubs, “Starbucks for Sissy sex,” to a fear of sex, death, intimacy and most other realities of life, and he’s also right to consider 9/11 a genuine example of “Shock and Awe,” even if it went a far sight beyond “guerrilla theater.” Strausbaugh then moves on to the softest of targets, academia, takes potshots at all the usual-suspect politicos and sneers at suburbanites—Andy Rooney stuff, in other words, though Rooney hasn’t been heard calling “the clash of Islam versus the West . . . just a tiff between two variations of Sissy fundamentalism.”

Shrill, tedious and heavy-handed—even if occasionally funny and often right on the mark.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-9052-6416-2

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Virgin Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2007

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Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.


Based on eight years of reporting and thousands of hours of interaction, a journalist chronicles the inner worlds of three women’s erotic desires.

In her dramatic debut about “what longing in America looks like,” Taddeo, who has contributed to Esquire, Elle, and other publications, follows the sex lives of three American women. On the surface, each woman’s story could be a soap opera. There’s Maggie, a teenager engaged in a secret relationship with her high school teacher; Lina, a housewife consumed by a torrid affair with an old flame; and Sloane, a wealthy restaurateur encouraged by her husband to sleep with other people while he watches. Instead of sensationalizing, the author illuminates Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Sloane’s erotic experiences in the context of their human complexities and personal histories, revealing deeper wounds and emotional yearnings. Lina’s infidelity was driven by a decade of her husband’s romantic and sexual refusal despite marriage counseling and Lina's pleading. Sloane’s Fifty Shades of Grey–like lifestyle seems far less exotic when readers learn that she has felt pressured to perform for her husband's pleasure. Taddeo’s coverage is at its most nuanced when she chronicles Maggie’s decision to go to the authorities a few years after her traumatic tryst. Recounting the subsequent trial against Maggie’s abuser, the author honors the triumph of Maggie’s courageous vulnerability as well as the devastating ramifications of her community’s disbelief. Unfortunately, this book on “female desire” conspicuously omits any meaningful discussion of social identities beyond gender and class; only in the epilogue does Taddeo mention race and its impacts on women's experiences with sex and longing. Such oversight brings a palpable white gaze to the narrative. Compounded by the author’s occasionally lackluster prose, the book’s flaws compete with its meaningful contribution to #MeToo–era reporting.

Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4229-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.


Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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