The Male Body: A New Look at Men in Public and in Private

Susan Bordo, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $25 (320p) ISBN 978-0-374-28065-9
Equipped with wit and savvy, Bordo sets out to map the ambivalent attitudes that exist in the American cultural imagination toward male bodies and, in particular, to ward the penis and its ""symbolic double,"" the phallus. Ranging from such topics as ""Viagran science"" to discussions of Long Dong Silver on the Senate floor, masculinity in the movies to Plato's Symposium, Nabokov to gay aesthetics, Bordo (Twilight Zones) deftly uses academic theories without straying into abstraction. Beginning and ending with memories of her father, her focus on the male body never wavers. Part One concerns the penis: size does matter, but it is ""always a collaboration with the imagination, and therefore with culture."" Bordo's discussion establishes a provocative context for her subsequent examination of the complex legacy of Marlon Brando's representations of masculinity. She convincingly explains how the ""lean, fit body that virtually everyone, gay and straight, now aspires to"" has resulted from the commercial triumph of the gay aesthetic first introduced to the mainstream by Calvin Klein. Bordo's theme is that men and women are not species alien to one another: ""We're all earthlings, desperate for love, demolished by rejection."" There is anger here, but it is directed at a culture ""that has us all behaving like sexual robots."" Part memoir, part elegy, this feminist guided tour of the male body concludes with real hope for improved relations between the sexes. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/31/1999
Release date: 06/01/1999
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-374-52732-7
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