Notes from an Ongoing Investigation
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.
Praise for Men
“Kipnis’s gifts are on full display in this irresistible collection of essays, in which she weaves together complex and penetrating insights about gender into provocative treatises.… Kipnis’s arguments are never predictable: for example, her chapter on ‘juicers,’ ostensibly about steroid-abusing male athletes, evolves into a profound soliloquy about writing, plagiarism, and labor markets. Her examination of modern manhood sheds as much light on male vulnerability as it does on male privilege, entitlement, and abuse…. Kipnis has given us a necessary, and often witty, book that shows a brilliant, agile mind at work.”
“These are times to try the weary feminist reader’s patience, when the conversation seems dominated by absolutist 23-year-olds still burning off the righteous indignation of their first women’s studies courses. It’s a cultural moment that begs for a worldly, ambiguity-friendly thinker like Laura Kipnis… She is a swashbuckling stylist, with a knack for nailing the essence of a remark by means of a canny metaphor… Humor and a kind of rueful empathy for human folly, not outrage, tends to be her go-to response.”
“The subject under her magnifying glass might be men, but Laura Kipnis’s exuberant new book is just as interested in women, and in all the ridiculous ways that both sexes keep misunderstanding each other. …The root of Kipnis’s fascination with men is their freedom not to be sorted, as women routinely are, into reductive categories like madonna/whore. Her aim is not to generalise away what makes particular men interesting…and it’s certainly not to lock them up in irredeemable categories.. Altogether, Men is a trip…a hell of a lot of fun.”
“…witty and dexterous prose. The patriarchal world, through Kipnis’s eyes, is consistently and quietly funny, and to ignore its absurdity in favor of outraged narratives is to exalt indignity. … Kipnis’s coolheaded, ironical assessments of modern masculinity read like perfectly-timed eye rolls.”
“Her writing attacks social conventions and norms, exposing the contradictions and complications within them….Like the humorists she admires, Kipnis rips open commonplaces and truisms to expose their tangled insides…. The best of Kipnis’s writing has the force of a shot slap—it goes down easy but it hits you hard.”
“Feisty, unapologetic forays into the messiness of gender relations… rendered in funny, spirited writing.”
“…a sharply written collection of essays… [Kipnis] writes with a light, comical touch, and is as hard on herself, and her own mixed feelings and motives, as she is on her subjects.”
“In Men, Kipnis circles [an] enigma—male identity in the modern age. Rather than offer a solution, which is not her goal, and maybe not her purview, she essays. She explores, she experiments…. She takes the least sympathetic public figures—the kind pundits like to lacerate with their manicured claws—and somehow finds humanity underneath their hubris. … Kipnis’ great gift is her ability to see in such larger-than-life figures …what we all see in ourselves, if we’re honest: the tender need to belong.”
“There is much fun to be had in experiencing the way that Kipnis follows her topics into unexpected territory, which is not unrelated to her charming inability to be the kind of easily outraged critic the world often seems to want…. [An] insightful, intelligent, and frequently hilarious collection.”