Of-the-moment essays about popular culture, literature and the author's unconventional life.
Critic and novelist Roiphe (Journalism/New York Univ.; Uncommon Arrangements: Seven Portraits of Married Life in London Literary Circles 1910–1939, 2007, etc.) presents a collection of personal essays and cultural and literary criticism, most of which have been previously published in Harper’s, the New York Times Book Review and other venues. The book's title is adapted from the headline of the author’s New York Times article, "The Allure of Messy Lives," which unpacks the hedonistic appeal of the TV show Mad Men and current cultural obsession with healthiness and productivity. “Perhaps part of what is so appealing, so fascinating about [the show],” she writes, “is the flight from bourgeois ordinariness, the struggle against it, in all of its poetic and mundane forms.” In a different essay, Roiphe describes her single motherhood and the pervasive negative judgment she perceives as existing toward women who choose to have children on their own. The book is divided into four sections: "Life and Times," essays about her life; "Books," pieces of literary criticism; "The Way We Live Now," cultural writing; and "The Internet, Etc.," personal essays offering scathing critiques of the "angry Internet commenter" and sites such as Gawker. Roiphe's searing polemics are notorious for sparking controversy and sometimes drawing ire, and certain pieces included here are sure to do the same. In one essay, she argues that "incest has become our latest literary vogue”; in another, she bemoans the sex scenes written by the "Great Male Novelists of the last century." Whether readers agree with her opinions or not, Roiphe is a fine, serious writer. Her essays are surprising, interesting and sharp and occasionally fall somewhere between thought-provoking and downright aggravating, but her voice is confident and consistent.
Mostly fascinating, lively writings on a spectrum of topics relevant to women and men with a literary bent.