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This powerful collection of essays ranges from pop culture to politics from Hillary Clinton to Susan Sontag from Facebook to Mad Men from Joan Didion to David Foster Wallace to—most strikingly—the author’s own life For fans of the essays of John Jeremiah Sullivan and Jonathan LethemNamed one of the best books of the year by The New York Times • The Wall Street Journal Katie Roiphe’s writing — whether in the form of personal essays literary criticism or cultural reporting — is bracing wickedly entertaining and deeply engaged with our s and manners In these pages she turns her exacting gaze on the surprisingly narrow minded conventions governing the way we live now Is there a preoccupation with “healthiness” above all else? If so does it lead insidiously to judging anyone who tries to live differently? Examining such subjects as the current fascination with Mad Men the oppressiveness of Facebook “the novel we are all writing” and the quiet malice our society displays toward single mothers Roiphe makes her case throughout these electric pages She profiles a New York prep school grad turned dominatrix isolates the exact endlessly repeated ingredients of a magazine “celebrity profile” and draws unexpected timeless lessons from news cycle hits such as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “love child” revelations On ample display in this book are Roiphe’s insightful occasionally obsessive takes on an array of literary figures including Jane Austen John Updike Susan Sontag Joan Didion and Margaret Wise Brown the troubled author of Goodnight Moon And reprinted for the first time and expanded here is her much debated New York Times Book Review cover piece “The Naked and the Conflicted” — an unabashed argument on sex and the contemporary American male writer that is in itself an exciting and refreshing reminder that criticism matters As steely eyed in examining her own life as she is in skewering our cultural pitfalls Roiphe gives us autobiographical pieces — on divorce motherhood an emotionally fraught trip to Vietnam the breakup of a female friendship — that are by turns deeply moving self critical razor sharp and unapologetic in their defense of “the messy life” In Praise of Messy Lives is powerfully unified vital work from one of our most astute and provocative voices


10 thoughts on “In Praise of Messy Lives Essays

  1. says:

    Whenever a new essay by Katie Roiphe is published I make haste to read it I am invariably in for a good twenty minutes of fun That is I have fun in tracking how she will take a position that I essentially agree with and overanalyze it over focus on it over decorate it with half digestested statistics and generally make it unpalatable to me until I find myself wanting to disagree with her out of pure contrarinessLet's take for instance the first essay in the book The great escape Ms Roiphe's point seems to be that she's doing just fine thank you very much as she's getting a divorce Well good for her I certainly agree that if a woman is getting out of a bad marriage there is no reason why she should be prostrated with grief But Ms Roiphe complains about her friends' concern for her emotional wellbeing at such lengths that one starts to feel that the lady protests too much And her inference that the people who seem to insist most on her being miserable are the ones who are trapped in unhappy marriages simply sounds defensive In her essay on children born out of wedlock she seems to think that the fact that she had a love child makes her some type of social outcast I have a hard time believing that this is how single mothers are viewed in New York city not exactly the Bible Belt and I read the rest of the essay thinking Yes but what is her POINT ?Some of the essays are just plain uninteresting Her travelogue about a trip to Vietnam with the obligatory analysis of sex tourism was a yawn So was the mini memoir about how she once slept with the pseudo boyfriend of a friend of hers thereby breaking up the friendship I couldn't figure out why she was friends with the girl why she slept with the boyfriend and why this was worth writing about Then there was a piece about how celebrity profiles in supermarket tabloids all use the same vocabulary and concepts Really? No one had noticed that before?The pieces that I enjoyed most were the ones about literary analysis And that is probably because I know little about that and therefore had no opinion at all about what she wrote In summary if you can deal with Ms Roiphe's affectations and her pretension that her personal experience is somehow representative of that of all women of her generation a frequently used phrase in her essays you can have some fun with this book Otherwise read Katha Pullitt