In Praise of Messy Lives: Essays

Katie Roiphe, Author
Katie Roiphe. Dial, $25 (288p) ISBN 978-0-81299-282-3
Reviewed on: 08/06/2012
Release date: 09/04/2012
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As feminist cultural critic Roiphe (Uncommon Arrangements) reminds readers in the introduction to her first essay collection: “There are an unusual number of people who ‘hate’ my writing.” This may be because she is an “uncomfortablist”—“drawn to subjects or ways of looking at things that make people, and sometimes even me, uncomfortable.” In “Part I: Life and Times,” she takes on the moral disapproval surrounding her divorce and single motherhood. In “Part II: Books,” her idiosyncratic tone is sometimes infuriating even when one agrees with her. In “Part III: The Way We Live Now,” she analyzes the success of Mad Men, the appeal of sadomasochistic fantasy to the contemporary American working woman, and is exasperated by Maureen Dowd’s failure to “use her threatening intelligence to unearth the deeper complexities of her subject.” She takes on Hillary Clinton haters, readers of celebrity profiles, overinvolved parents, and private schools—easy and somewhat dated targets. “Part IV: The Internet, Etc.” is timely, but her thinking about today’s communication addictions proves thin. However, when she unravels her own youthful betrayal of a friend in the deeply felt essay “Beautiful Boy, Warm Night,” she is as demanding of herself as she is of her reader. Roiphe’s writing is prickly and provocative, frequently annoying, sometimes courageous, and most welcome when it cuts deep. Agent: Suzanne Gluck, WME. (Sept.)
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