Taking It Like a Man: White Masculinity, Masochism, and Contemporary American Culture

David Savran, Author
David Savran, Author Princeton University Press $92.5 (380p) ISBN 978-0-691-01637-5
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 01/01/1998
Covering a spectrum of masculine imagery that embraces everything from John Wayne and Rambo to Tony Kushner and gay S&M, Savran (Communists, Cowboys, and Queers) traces the rising fortunes of the white-man-as-victim in recent American history. At first isolated and alienated in the margins of the 1950s Beat generation, the American White Man as a type was ""feminized"" at the center of the '60s radical discourse before returning as a reconstructed concept in an array of backlash movements in the '70s, finally establishing itself as a cultural center in the '80s and '90s. Despite Savran's wide range of accessible sources and broad canvas, however, his demanding, psychoanalytically informed prose, dense with wordplay, parentheses, and jargon, makes for tough going. Moreover, the sheer volume of material here--among the genres surveyed are poetry, fiction, literary criticism, drama, political discourse and film--sometimes becomes overwhelming; the same case might well have been made with fewer examples. Yet the author's argument is worth pursuing, and a number of readings are acute and original. In the movie Twister, for instance, he finds both a post-Cold War fear of terrorism (""a new and unpredictable monster that may strike at any moment, destroying property, killing innocent people, and uprooting families"") and a renewed spirituality (the awful, and awe-ful, monster twister as ""the finger of God""). Not for the uninitiated, but valuable for those with the stamina to push to the end. (May)
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