Briefly noted: The Great Man — Kate Christensen

The Great Man is one of the best novels I’ve read recently; it should be cited more often. Almost every page delights. It’s the sort of novel I should hate but yet don’t. A longer essay on it is coming, but it’s coming far behind work on Asking Anna, a novel of mine you’ll see more about shortly, and work-for-money. Nonetheless here is one characteristic passage from early in the novel:

“Please sit down,” said Teddy; she intended it as a command. She wasn’t impressed by Henry. She guessed he was forty or thereabouts. He looked like a lightweight, the kind of young man you saw everywhere these days, gutless and bland. He wore soft cotton clothing, a little rumpled from the heat and long drive in the car—she would have bet it was a Volvo. She could smell domesticity on him, the technologically up-to-date apartment on the Upper West Side, the ambitious, hard-edged wife—women were the hard ones at that age. Men turned sheepish and eager to please after about forty. Oscar had been the same way; he’d turned into a bit of hangdog at around forty and hadn’t fully regained his chutzpah until he’d hit fifty or so, but even then, she had never lost interest in him, and she was still interested in him now, even though he was gone.

We learn more about Teddy than about the stages of life and yet she, like almost every character, is half right half the time. One could spend an hour well on this paragraph in a fiction-writing class.

Briefly noted: The Monogamy Gap — Eric Anderson

Any book that claims rigor but approvingly cites Michel Foucault undermines its claim to rigorousness. While the subject of The Monogamy Gap is interesting, the book draws on 120 interviews of university men. That’s all. Its conclusions might be mildly useful for understanding that particular group but its claims shouldn’t be applied beyond that tiny group. There are many useful things to be said about monogamy, but most of them have been and are being said by evolutionary biologists, psychologists, novelists, and memoirists (“memoir writers?”), and to a lesser extent economists.

What Camille Paglia said in “Scholars in Bondage” also applies to The Monogamy Gap.

%d bloggers like this: