Last Night in Paradise: Sex and Morals at the Century's Endby Katie Roiphe
Writing with the unerring reportorial instinct she brought to her widely discussed The Morning After, one of our most outspoken cultural commentators chronicles our uneasy passage from the sexual revolution to the new Puritanism in a book that is one part history, one part
"A brilliant and contrarian voice, à la Mary McCarthy."
Writing with the unerring reportorial instinct she brought to her widely discussed The Morning After, one of our most outspoken cultural commentators chronicles our uneasy passage from the sexual revolution to the new Puritanism in a book that is one part history, one part prophecy, and all provocation.
KATIE ROIPHE depicts the inner landscape of a generation that practices condom etiquette yet fears that even the safest sex may not be safe enough. She shows how educators and ideologues have co-opted the fear of AIDS to promote their own moral agenda. Roiphe also writes about her sister Emily, who is herself HIV-positive, with a candor that makes Last Night in Paradise as much a personal document as it is a barometric reading of our sexual climate. Gripping, incisive, and at times incendiary, the result is a work of reportage in the tradition of Joan Didion's Slouching Toward Bethlehema portrait of an era that will be read and debated long after that era has passed.
"Resonant . . . I look forward to hearing from Ms. Roiphe again."
Jennifer Grossman, Wall Street Journal
Noting that among drug-free heterosexuals AIDS has not spread as predicted, Roiphe asks: Why are straight young Americans so panicked, and why do safer-sex educators send them such hysterical messages? She convincingly argues that much of the alarm is not really about the disease at all, but about anxiety over sexual morality and the meaning of intimacy in a world with few limits; it's about the very American notion that irresponsibility and pleasure must have a price. She effectively shows, through examination of pop culture and the media, that even before AIDS, there was a sense that the sexual revolution's permissiveness was going to have some ominous outcome. Her examples of AIDS as a substitute for old-fashioned taboos are well chosen; she perceptively compares France's idealization of filmmaker Cyril Collard and his semi-autobiographical Savage Nights (about a bisexual Don Juan who, knowing he's HIV-positive, continues his promiscuity) with the total moral condemnation heaped on it by critics and the public in the US. Roiphe visits high schools in which kids condemn the girl who sleeps around for putting herself at risk; she notes that such judgments do not sound so different from 1950s anxieties about the class slut's "bad reputation." Roiphe often brings the personal and political together in a single, telling detail; describing a visit with Beverly LaHaye, founder of the far-right Concerned Women for America, she notes that LaHaye speaks slowly, deliberately, "perhaps hoping that if she talks slowly enough, the world might slow down with her."
An insightful contribution to the national conversation on AIDS and sexualitya conversation characterized too often by irrationality and unarticulated fears.
- Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.22(w) x 8.01(h) x 0.60(d)
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