In Praise of Messy Lives

In Praise of Messy Lives

by Katie Roiphe
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In Praise of Messy Lives by Katie Roiphe

This powerful collection of essays ranges from pop culture to politics, from Hillary Clinton to Susan Sontag, from Facebook to Mad Men, from Joan Didion to David Foster Wallace to—most strikingly—the author’s own life. For fans of the essays of John Jeremiah Sullivan and Jonathan Lethem.

The New York Times • The Wall Street Journal
Katie Roiphe’s writing—whether in the form of personal essays, literary criticism, or cultural reporting—is bracing, wickedly entertaining, and deeply engaged with our mores and manners. In these pages, she turns her exacting gaze on the surprisingly narrow-minded conventions governing the way we live now. Is there a preoccupation with “healthiness” above all else? If so, does it lead insidiously to judging anyone who tries to live differently? Examining such subjects as the current fascination with Mad Men, the oppressiveness of Facebook (“the novel we are all writing”), and the quiet malice our society displays toward single mothers, Roiphe makes her case throughout these electric pages. She profiles a New York prep school grad turned dominatrix; isolates the exact, endlessly repeated ingredients of a magazine “celebrity profile”; and draws unexpected, timeless lessons from news-cycle hits such as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “love child” revelations. On ample display in this book are Roiphe’s insightful, occasionally obsessive takes on an array of literary figures, including Jane Austen, John Updike, Susan Sontag, Joan Didion, and Margaret Wise Brown, the troubled author of Goodnight, Moon. And reprinted for the first time and expanded here is her much-debated New York Times Book Review cover piece, “The Naked and the Conflicted”—an unabashed argument on sex and the contemporary American male writer that is in itself an exciting and refreshing reminder that criticism matters. As steely-eyed in examining her own life as she is in skewering our cultural pitfalls, Roiphe gives us autobiographical pieces—on divorce, motherhood, an emotionally fraught trip to Vietnam, the breakup of a female friendship—that are by turns deeply moving, self-critical, razor-sharp, and unapologetic in their defense of “the messy life.”
In Praise of Messy Lives is powerfully unified, vital work from one of our most astute and provocative voices.

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679644026
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/04/2012
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 912,661
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Katie Roiphe is a professor at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University. She writes a column on life, literature, and politics for Slate and writes for The New York Times, Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Paris Review, and other publications. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her two children.

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In Praise of Messy Lives: Essays 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TheLiteracyCookbook More than 1 year ago
I am pretty sure that most of my friends will like this book as much as I did, and not just because of the ironic title. Which is not to say that we are messy people, per se. Katie Roiphe’s insightful, witty essays are not about being a slob in the physical sense (although she would forgive you if you were). Rather, she’s trying to say that we should all be more tolerant of imperfection and experimentation. And she’s annoyed by people who aren’t. From the first paragraph, she lays the groundwork for both her content and her approach: she pokes fun at something then confesses that she is guilty, too. She begins: “Here is something I remember from school: in French class we quickly learned that no matter what we were reading—Camus, Sartre, Ionesco, Voltaire—the correct answer to any question was always “L’hypocrisie de la bourgeoisie.” Then she goes on to admit, she “[fears] that same commitment to theme is a little bit on display here.” In short, she knows she’s as obsessed as her French teacher, but A) at least she knows it and B) she can laugh about it. And so can we, because her writing is both acerbic and self-deprecating. For those who’ve felt oppressed by cultural norms because you do not live a conventional life (or don’t WANT TO), this book is for you. Sarah Tantillo, Ed.D., LLC (author of THE LITERACY COOKBOOK: A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO EFFECTIVE READING, WRITING, SPEAKING, AND LISTENING INSTRUCTION)