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UNWANTED ADVANCES

SEXUAL PARANOIA COMES TO CAMPUS

As in all her books, Kipnis is consistently provocative and intelligent.

An argument for how the “recent upheavals in sexual culture on American campuses” are symptomatic of “officially sanctioned” sexual paranoia and hysteria.

Kipnis (Filmmaking/Northwestern Univ.; Men: Notes from an Ongoing Investigation, 2014, etc.) examines the sexual culture shift among millennial university students within an increasingly bureaucratized academic system. She argues that although sex culture today outwardly vaunts women’s choice to be as libertine as they wish, the reality is much more complex. Many women are using—and in Kipnis’ view, abusing—Title IX legislation designed to prevent sex discrimination in education as a way to “remedy sexual ambivalences or awkward sexual experiences, and to adjudicate relationships post-breakup.” Drawing on documented Title IX cases, interviews, and her own experiences, Kipnis delineates a world in which “witch hunt conditions” are now the new campus norm. In one case, a troubled female undergraduate used Title IX to take aim at a respected male professor, Peter Ludlow, at Northwestern. The student, Eunice Cho, alleged that he forced her to drink and submit to unwanted groping, two actions Cho claimed led to her suicide attempt. The episode, which later included accusations of improper behavior from a female graduate student who had been Ludlow’s lover, transformed his image into a rapist who used his power and personal charisma to target “vulnerable young women.” The author’s trenchant yet witty analysis reveals how the entrance of university administrators, each with his or her own agendas and vendettas, rendered a complex situation even murkier and more byzantine. Not only did the outcome—which included Ludlow's dismissal—reinforce stereotypical ideas about males as sexual predators and females as their prey. It also strengthened traditional ideas that women were victims with no agency of their own. Though the narrative occasionally reads like an academic gossip column, it never diminishes the problem of campus sexual assault, and the author reveals disturbing trends in university culture that merit further conversation.

As in all her books, Kipnis is consistently provocative and intelligent.

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-265786-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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