This exhaustive study of the hows, whys, and wherefores of seductive men ranges from ancient to modern, from the sublime to the ridiculous, and from literature to real life. Bite-size tidbits from the legends of ancient Greece bump into fantasy story lines from contemporary American romance novels. In addition to her copious research, Prioleau (Seductress) interviews real-life men with reputations as successful seducers in an effort to understand their powers. There’s Michael “The King,” apparently invincible; Nick the Fireman, “a man who gives off licks of electricity” as a result of his charisma; George Reese, the conversationalist who “conjures enchantment—of a prepotent kind”; Gustin, the Darien, Conn., cab driver, who has “more female adulation at sixty-seven than he knows what to do with.” Prioleau draws endlessly on the work of experts: evolutionary psychologists, neuropsychiatrists, social anthropologists, sociolinguists, a Harlequin Romance editor, philosophers, sex researchers, the occasional personal trainer and more. She is so committed to her research that on one page alone she breathlessly cites Havelock Ellis, Ortega y Gasset, the Sumerian deity Dmuzi, Dionysus, Milan Kundera, psychologists, popular romance, David Niven, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Queen Elizabeth I. But rather than an engaging romp, the book is set at such a frantic pace as to be charmless, head-spinning, and exhausting. 12 illus. Agent: Lynn Nesbit, Janklow & Nesbit. (Feb).
“Betsy Prioleau’s witty and compelling book is a fresh take on the question of what women want. I wholly agree with her thesis that the true seducer is not the swaggering Don Juan of myth and melodrama, but the ordinary-looking man who likes, loves, and listens to women.”
“Swoon is a revelatoryand revolutionarywork that radically expands our understanding of human desire and unveils the mysteries surrounding passionate love. Prioleau answers Freud’s vexed question: "What do women want?" It is also a profound cultural history of eros with evocative case studies of great seducers. The reader of this remarkable book will be happily seduced and enlightened.”
“How did we forget what women really want? Men who pulse with vitality, who enjoy female company, who give great conversation, whose sheer ardor compels our surrender—as Betsy Prioleau reminds us in her beautifully written, deeply researched, and desperately needed rediscovery of the men who make us 'Swoon.'”
A fun, frothy complement to cultural historian Prioleau's Seductress: Women Who Ravished the World (2003). Between the numerous literary examples of famous lotharios, the author inserts plenty of real-life lady-killers and analyzes what it is about them that attracts women so avidly. Prioleau also dispels some of the myths about these roués--e.g., that they are in some way malevolent or that rakes are all rich and gorgeous. In fact, she writes, like the real Casanova, they are most often witty conversationalists, funny and truly fond of women. They might even be a little androgynous, like Gary Cooper, "more beautiful than any woman except Garbo," and not even handsome, like British statesman Duff Cooper, who was "plump and saucer-faced with an oversized head." "Rather than hackneyed, mustache-twirling stage villains," writes the author, "they're a mixed breed…who magnetize women to them." Prioleau even delves into evolutionary psychology and cites wisdom from a variety of sources, including Darwin, who claimed that women are attracted to alpha males for mating purposes. A successful rake has a combination of traits like charisma, courage, a nice voice, the ability to listen and spout poetry, and he must convey his interest in the lady in question at all costs. In the final chapters, Prioleau offer some rather perplexing advice on how babe magnets keep their relationships fresh--e.g., "For lasting passion, an inexhaustible, expansive identity is the penultimate spell." A merrily readable literary history/dating manual.
“I read Swoon in the hope that some of its subjects would even slightly resemble me. I loved the book anyway.”
“Betsy Prioleau’s vivacious prose grabs the reader, as does her marvelous wit, her insight into sexual desire, and her extraordinary research. It’s a fascinating, very sexy read, especially her interviews with great lovers of today who detail why they’re so successful in their seduction of women.”
“Bold…with a pinch of bawd, laid on a foundation of detailed research…A dazzling parade of lovers who embody what women want, which isn’t always what we’re told or what one might expect.”
“Prioleau shows how the intoxicating mix of traits that make women swoon often goes deeper than the obvious looks, status and riches, at times bypassing them altogether.”
“Sharp, sexy and completely engrossing. . . . Whether Prioleau is writing about Casanova, Bill Clinton or the great French actor Gérard Depardieu, she brings to life those elusive qualities of the world’s great seducers.”
This is the male complement to Prioleau's 2004 treatise on the history and allure of sirens, Seductress: Women Who Ravished the World and Their Lost Art of Love. Here she debunks the myth that the stereotypical "bad boy" is the most desirable male archetype and investigates the many men (real and fictitious) throughout history who have had a way with women. With exceptional vocabulary and bright prose, Prioleau (former scholar in residence, cultural history, New York Univ.) offers a thoroughly researched, irresistible, accessible look at ladies' men. From well-known characters such as Casanova and Don Juan to contemporary and historical figures such as Benjamin Franklin, Albert Camus, and Jack Nicholson, who had great success as seducers, Prioleau teases out the qualities that render certain men magnetic for women. She also offers historical, scientific, and sociological perspectives, as well as interviews with today's Romeos, who reveal the sometimes unexpected secrets to their success. VERDICT A frank, fascinating look at the characteristics of historical and contemporary seducers. Lovers of social and cultural history, as well as the merely romantically curious, will enjoy it.—Elizabeth Winter, Georgia Inst. of Technology, Atlanta