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Last Night in Paradise: Sex and Morals at the Century's End
     

Last Night in Paradise: Sex and Morals at the Century's End

by Katie Roiphe
 
"A brilliant and contrarian voice, à la Mary McCarthy."
—Kirkus Reviews

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

Overview

"A brilliant and contrarian voice, à la Mary McCarthy."
—Kirkus Reviews

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 Bethlehem—a 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

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Roiphe (The Morning After: Sex, Fear and Feminism) believes that the AIDS epidemic has led the guardians of public virtue to foster a new code of sexual morality stressing abstinence, monogamy, condoms and safe sex, a code that plays upon Americans' fundamentally puritanical distrust of pleasure and on our anxious ambivalence about sexuality. Among other points in this collection of original essays, she argues that the media have exaggerated the dangers of white, middle-class heterosexual transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). One piece instructively contrasts Savage Nights, a French movie about a bisexual filmmaker dying of AIDS, with Philadelphia, "America's own unimpeachably responsible AIDS movie." Other articles focus on Magic Johnson; Roiphe's sex-education lectures in a New Jersey high school; and the illness and death of Alison Gertz, who appeared on Oprah to explain how she became infected with the HIV virus after a one-night stand. In the most personally revealing piece, Roiphe discloses her family's trauma when her sister, Emily, a former heroin addict now in recovery, tested positive for HIV. While the ideas in these sometimes-repetitive essays tend to verge on pop psychology, the author is a lively, thought-provoking writer. Author tour. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Roiphe, who writes regularly for Harper's and New York, is best known for her controversial book about date rape, The Morning After (LJ 9/15/93). It takes a while to figure out where this book is going, and its destination isn't worth the effort. Roiphe sees the concern with AIDS and safe sex as a plot by social conservatives to re-create the social/sexual environment of the Fifties. She conflates lust and love and, apparently, feels the right to one-night stands should have been enshrined in the Constitution. The tone of the book is defensive, whiny, and mean-spirited. Those with whom she disagrees are criticized not just for their views (abstinence and virginity seem to be major horrors for Roiphe) but also for their hair styling and fashion sense. Not recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/96.]-Sharon Firestone, Arizona State Univ. Law Lib., Tempe
Kirkus Reviews
Roiphe weighs in on her generation's AIDS panic; unlike her often ill-reasoned 1992 screed on campus date-rape hysteria (The Morning After, 1993), this volume is witty and shrewdly observed.

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 sexuality—a conversation characterized too often by irrationality and unarticulated fears.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375700538
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/28/1997
Pages:
208
Product dimensions:
5.22(w) x 8.01(h) x 0.60(d)

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