How to Become a Scandal

Laura Kipnis, Author
Laura Kipnis, Holt, $24 (224p) ISBN 978-0-8050-8979-0
Reviewed on: 08/02/2010
Release date: 08/01/2010
Paperback - 209 pages - 978-0-312-61057-9
Open Ebook - 224 pages - 978-1-4299-3065-9
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Two very public downfalls and two very public uproars guide us through the contemporary infernal regions of scandal: the downfall of “the lovelorn astronaut,” Lisa Nowak, and “an unreasonable judge,” Sol Wachter, and the uproar set off by Linda Tripp and James Frey. Familiar as they may be, Kipnis (Against Love) freshly illuminates her subjects’ plights, while scrutinizing the public delight in their misfortune, wearing her learning so lightly that the reader is easily seduced by her quick wit and her camouflaged erudition. Kipnis ties psychoanalysis and reality TV, detectives and literary critics, talk show hosts and sociologists, along with the scandalizers and the scandalized into a persuasive bundle: “Scandals aren’t just fiascoes other people get themselves embroiled in while the rest of us go innocently about our business,” she argues. “[W]e all have crucial roles to play.” A deliciously flippant tone serves the reader the juicy details we savor so about scandal, while tossing in some timeless questions and speculations about the deeper meaning of it all (“free will, moral luck, the stranglehold of desire, the difference between right and wrong”) as though they were mere garniture. This is a dead serious book that’s an utter lark to read. (Sept.)
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