INTIMATE TERRORISM by Michael Vincent Miller


The Deterioration of Erotic Life
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 Extraordinarily well written popular psychology that dissects the complex power relations between modern lovers and within their societies. ``I doubt that anyone before our own era...expected marriage to make up for the pain of history,'' comments clinical psychologist Miller. But now, he contends, love is expected to conquer traumas generated by both personal histories and societal problems. Under this impossible burden, the social bonds of love have disintegrated. Lovers, despairing of diplomacy, employ extreme means in the battle for intimate space and sustenance--the ``intimate terrorism'' of the title. Like all good writers in this genre, Miller draws authority from an awareness of life and thought that transcends psychology's frameworks. He peppers his text with judicious citations from classic works of literature, social science, and philosophy. But there's meaty original thinking, too. He describes some forms of intimate terrorism in terms of classic dialectics, like those between scarcity and abundance (initially, lovers feel flooded with abundance, but later love is valued only if it is scarce, or withheld); others he analyzes in light of contemporary fears of failure and epidemics of abuse. Throughout, Miller sails against prevailing winds of self-help, insisting that the structure of contemporary society be held responsible for its contribution to marital misery. (While he explicitly addresses himself to troubled gay, lesbian, or unmarried couples as well as to married heterosexuals, it is the latter group that populates his examples.) Despite his sophistication, the author can't resist overstating his claim that ours is a fallen time in comparison to a golden age somewhere in the past. Meanwhile, his closing prescription for irony and humor rings oddly, given his earnest tone throughout. Nevertheless, an urgent, transparent style coupled with important subject matter result in a probing account of contemporary pain.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-393-03759-2
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1995