Dont Think, Smile CL

Ellen Willis, Author
Ellen Willis, Author Beacon Press (MA) $25 (128p) ISBN 978-0-8070-4320-2
Reviewed on: 10/04/1999
Release date: 10/01/1999
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-0-8070-4321-9
Ebook - 212 pages - 978-0-8070-4314-1
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In six provocative essays, Willis, who writes frequently for the Village Voice and other liberal publications, dissects the political agendas and actions of the American Left during the past decade, finding them insufficient to meet most citizens' everyday challenges. Claiming that mainstream political progressives have made a fateful choice to prioritize issues of class and economics over those of ""culture"" (e.g., race, sex, gender and sexuality), Willis argues that their approach does not acknowledge the complexity of American social structures and her own and most people's desire to have ""a freer, saner, and more pleasurable life."" Willis is at her best when she prods raw nerves in U.S. politics to illustrate her points, including the Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill controversy, Murray and Herrnstein's The Bell Curve and Catherine McKinnon's anti-porn legislation. Viewing most contemporary conservative politics as a ""backlash to the sixties,"" Willis writes with a great deal of wit and compassion. In addition to her firm grasp of the complexities of political discourse, her main strength is her ability to ground her ideological stands firmly in human needs and experience. She is particularly adept at examining how complicated individual responses to events such as Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky or the presumed connection between crime and race are missing from what she sees as the highly politicized, partisan news coverage of those events. Never taking the easy or predictable route, Willis shows an ability to explicate difficult dilemmas. (Oct.)
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