Monday, February 14, 2011

How to Become a Scandal: adventures in bad behavior

by Laura Kipnis

In college, I was never sure exactly what communications majors were studying. Then again, as someone who considered getting a graduate degree in semiotics, I'm no stranger to the vague, subjective and useless. Well, maybe not useless, but not practical. Cultural critique and analysis has its uses, but one can easily argue it's a luxury few can afford — a sort of First World problem or white male neurosis, if you will. In other words, right up my alley.

Anyway, I didn't realize until I was starting this book that I've also read another book by Kipnis, Against Love: A Polemic, which I found to be very incisive and thought-provoking, in particular when she questions whose interest is really served by monogamy and the so-called nuclear family. With queers fighting for legal recognition of their families and straights divorcing in droves, one does wonder, or should.

Although not entirely without humor, that book is more serious than this newer one. In drolly reviewing four major meltdowns by public figures (or at least people who became public figures due to their extraordinary flame outs), the author explores related issues plaguing modern American life: media saturation, fame obsession, compulsive confession and a total absence of self-shaming. Funny and quick, I recommend it.

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