A collection of savvy, witty essays, more personal than political, from a feminist known for her social and cultural commentary.
In the title essay, Pollitt (Virginity or Death!: And Other Social and Political Issues of Our Time, 2006, etc.), a long-time columnist for The Nation, has lost her man and consequently must learn to drive a car, a task fraught with difficulties for a woman in late middle age. In the second piece, “Webstalker,” the loss of her man turns her into an Internet addict who compulsively Googles him and anyone connected to him. These two essays, both previously published in the New Yorker, are laced with self-deprecating humor, as is “Memoir of a Shy Pornographer,” about her stint as a young, shy freelance copyeditor and proofreader of pornography. There is a darker tone to her wry essay on belonging to a Marxist study group, led by a charismatic leader who was also her philandering boyfriend, and in the several pieces on feminism. A measure of poignancy marks her recollections of her Communist father (“Good-Bye, Lenin”), on whom the FBI kept error-filled files, and of her alcoholic mother (“Mrs. Razzmatazz”), who hid bottles in the kitchen cabinets. Resignation fills “End Of,” her meditative piece on a vanishing landscape near her Connecticut home. Love, sex, marriage, mothering, aging, keeping up appearances—all come under her sharp scrutiny. A sardonic observer of human behavior, especially the relations between men and women, Pollitt leaves no doubt about her opinions. She writes that “ the stories women tell each other about themselves emphasize the comical, the improbable, the vaguely malevolent but always entertaining twists and turns of fate,” a characterization that fits much of her work here.
Thoroughly enjoyable reading for anyone, feminist or not, who likes bright, funny, opinionated writing.