Who would dream of being against love? No one.
Love is, as everyone knows, a mysterious and all-controlling force, with vast power over our thoughts and life decisions.
But is there something a bit worrisome about all this uniformity of opinion? Is this the one subject about which no disagreement will be entertained, about which one truth alone is permissible? Consider that the most powerful organized religions produce the occasional heretic; every ideology has its apostates; even sacred cows find their butchers. Except for love.
Hence the necessity for a polemic against it. A polemic is designed to be the prose equivalent of a small explosive device placed under your E-Z-Boy lounger. It won’t injure you (well not severely); it’s just supposed to shake things up and rattle a few convictions.
In this ragingly witty yet contemplative look at the discontents of domestic and erotic relationships, Kipnis (Bound and Gagged: Pornography and the Politics of Fantasy in America) combines portions of the slashing sexual contrarianism of Mailer, the scathing antidomestic wit of early Roseanne Barr and the coolly analytical aesthetics of early Sontag: "Aren't all adulterers amateur collagists? We're scavengers and improvisers, constructing odd assemblages out of detritus and leftovers: a few scraps of time and some dormant emotions...." With a razor-sharp intelligence and a gleeful sense of irony, Kipnis dismantles the myths of romance surrounding monogamy and makes the case for why adultery is a reasonable, often used, escape hatch. Kipnis is often most funny when at her most provocative ("Feel free to take a second to mull this over, or to make a quick call: 'Hi hon, just checking in!' "), but even her moments of sarcastic humor can have a sobering effect, as when Kipnis considers the reasons behind the public's obsessive need for reading about real and fictional stories of spousal murders, noting that "perhaps these social pathologies and aberrations of love are the necessary fallout from the social conventions of love." Kipnis is adroit at detailing (sometimes with "notoriously unreliable" sexual self-reporting statistics) how our desire for fidelity is often at odds with basic human needs for personal freedom, and is terrific in dissecting how or so Kipnis's case goes "family values" politicians like Newt Gingrich fail miserably to live up to their own rhetoric. In the end, she concludes that adultery and fidelity have to exist side-by-side: "let's face it: purity always flirts with defilement." Kipnis balances her scintillating, on-target observations on straying with an honest sense of compassion for human experience.