SELF-MADE MAN by Norah Vincent
Kirkus Star

SELF-MADE MAN

One Woman’s Journey into Manhood and Back Again
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A fascinating, truly weird account of a female journalist who dresses in drag for 18 months in order to feel men’s pain.

What prompted Vincent, who notes that she is not a transsexual or a transvestite, to undertake a cross-dressing experiment as the 35-year-old nerdy Ned, who stinks at sports, is attractive to women, frequents strip clubs with new blue-collar buddies, brings a refreshing “emotional awareness” to a Catholic monastery and excels as a high-testosterone door-to-door salesman? Fascinated by the “unspoken codes of male experience,” Vincent bets that becoming a man will allow her to “observe much more about the social differences between the sexes.” With great seriousness she undertakes the creation of Ned’s persona: Consulting a makeup artist, she fashions a credible five o’clock shadow (it gets a little nasty when she sweats); cuts her hair into a fade to emphasize a squarer jaw and dons rectangular glasses; wears a binding sports bra and pumps weights to bulk up her shoulders; and learns to modulate her already deep voice (men, she learns, don’t talk in torrential prattle, but “lean back and pronounce with terse authority”). As Ned, she joins a working-class bowling team, who offer touching fatherly tips, and while she genuinely likes the men, revealing her identity to them after months of friendship seems a violent and traitorous blow. In chapters entitled “Friendship,” “Sex,” “Love,” “Life,” “Work” and “Self,” Ned undergoes the rigors of male conditioning, though it is finally while participating in a men’s-movement group that Vincent recognizes that most men in fact live in disguise—hiding rage, pain and shame.

One of the curiouser books to appear of late—sure to attract attention.

Pub Date: Jan. 23rd, 2006
ISBN: 0-670-03466-5
Page count: 279pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2005




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