Men: Notes from an Ongoing Investigation
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From the notoriously contrarian author of Against Love, a witty and probing examination of why badly behaved men have been her lifelong fascination, on and off the page
It's no secret that men often behave in intemperate ways, but in recent years we've witnessed so many spectacular public displays of male excess―disgraced politicians, erotically desperate professors, fallen sports icons―that we're left to wonder whether something has come unwired in the collective male psyche.
In the essays collected here, Laura Kipnis revisits the archetypes of wayward masculinity that have captured her imagination over the years, scrutinizing men who have figured in her own life alongside more controversial public examples. Slicing through the usual clichés about the differences between the sexes, Kipnis mixes intellectual rigor and wit to give us compelling survey of the affinities, jealousies, longings, and erotics that structure the male-female bond.
worrying about his reputation. If he doesn’t get hired to teach a course, how will he know whether it was Nasreen’s hate campaign that did him in with a would-be employer? He can’t exactly ask. But the unease goes deeper. Maybe it’s because having an unseen tormentor is so close to the equivocal world of dreamlife, where you’re always guilty of some prior crime you can’t remember having committed. And Nasreen is nothing if not psychologically shrewd: she has an uncanny way of intuiting his
Oedipal and the excremental: what fertile turf Lasdun makes of them! Shit just happens, as in The Horned Man, when Lawrence, having benevolently left money in his office for Trumilcik, who may be camping there at night, returns to find the bills replaced by a coiled turd. Amateur Freudians will be cackling at the inside joke: money = shit in psychoanalytic symbology. (Anal types wish to retain both—yes, the relation between spending and toilet training is something all of us need to ponder
left unconcluded between us. “Perhaps writing is closer to ping pong” he wrote elliptically, and I recalled that we’d spent part of an evening playing ping-pong (being Marxists, we were housed in some kind of shitty dormitory). I suppose he meant to imply something about playfulness in lieu of heavy scenes, though the letter wasn’t really playful, it was somewhat cutting, even though written in an elegiac mode. He mused about why he hadn’t called me before he’d left the States; wondered why he
spankee, the rest of us played the role of spankers. Everyone lined up in a row, back to front, legs apart to form a tunnel. The spankee started at the front of the line, then scurried through the tunnel on hands and knees while getting spanked on the butt by each spanker in succession. The spankee then took up his or her place at the end of the line, whereupon the first spanker became the spankee and scurried through the tunnel on hands and knees while getting spanked on the butt. And so on,
myself as a particularly hard spanker, I suppose I sent a couple of kids home crying in my earlier reviewing days, and in my own book-writing career, I once got punched so brutally that it left me reeling and gasping for air. (Another version of pretending invulnerability is the proclivity for especially vicious reviews by younger women of other women writers.) In the real world, where a lot of critics also write books, one day you’re dishing it out and another moment you’re taking it. It can be