Sunday, June 16, 2013

Adventures in Autogynophilia

[An update to our earlier essay here.]

Well, well:  another Sunday, another New York Times Book Review.  Hoping against hope, I quickly scan the Nonfiction index;  but no:  out of five reviews, four would not even exist (or at least not be so packaged) without gynocentric assumptions, and the fifth was for Obama-bashing.
(Oh, almost forgot -- Happy Father’s Day.    Not.)


The front-page review is of What Do Women Want? Adventures in the Science of Female Desire.   Nothing the matter there;  the book is apparently extensively researched, if perhaps rather hyped and breathy in places (as you would expect in a book from HarperCollins) -- but no more so than today’s typical popularization of cosmology.  And the review itself is level-headed, eminently sensible.   No, the problem once again is in the packaging, a point we examined at some length in an earlier essay (La nostalgie de la boue).   The page layout shows where the real priorities of the marketing department lie:  atop a squooshed sliver of text, only an inch and a half high, the entire rest of the front page is taken up with a soft-porn drawing of a woman experiencing orgasm.   The artist is apparently female, and indeed the whole aesthetic is designed, in a way difficult to put into words, to appeal to the fantasies of women, not to be cheesecake for men.  For one thing, she is primly made-up, her lipstick precise, unsmudged by any kisses;  she would seem to be, not in the arms of a lover (let alone a husband  -- Daddies?  We don't need no stinkin' daddies!), but having some private time with Mister Dildo.

Then comes a book about a scholarly topic, the solution of Linear B.   (The language turned out to be Mycenaean Greek.)   To be sure, the book is given a tawdry, Mayan-mysticism-sounding title, The Riddle of the Labyrinth:  The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code (the publisher -- surprise, surprise -- HarperCollins).   But, soit.   A tale worth telling.  The principals in the discovery and solution, as a matter of historical fact, are Arthur Evans and Michael Ventris, and their tale has been oft told before.  But now our female author approaches the matter from a fresh perspective, that of the chip-on-the-shoulder “Rosalind Franklin syndrome”, focussing instead on one Alice Kober (likewise spotlighted by the Review, with a large photograph, the other principals not being depicted).   As near as I can tell from the review, Ms. Kober did not actually contribute a thing to the solution;  but, had she lived longer, we are told, she might have!   In short, but for narcissism and ressentiment, this book would not even exist.

And now it gets stranger.   The next book under respectful review is a memoir by … but let us give our pen a rest.   You’d likely forget the name anyway if you didn’t already know it, but you’ll not soon recall the color photograph that emblazens the review, physically elbowing the text aside.  The elbow belongs to an upraised right arm, terminating in a fist;  and the arm belongs to a shouting woman (the author), with the word “Vagina” written in huge letters across her chest, in hot pink.  Accompanying the photo, in large type, is a quotation from this luminary:  “The absence of a body against my body  created a gap, a hole, a hunger.”  (If a man were to attribute such words to a character in his book, he would be accused of misogyny.)

We touch bottom at last with the final book of this dominical quartet:  Confessions of a Psychopath.   -- No but surely you are mistaken, this must be fiction, a work along the lines of the novel Await Your Reply.   -- But no, it is a memoir:  “A self-professed sociopath describes her charm, intelligence, and absence of emotion.”
It is no-one you have heard of.  She has supposedly not even committed any spectacular series of violent crimes, such as might normally tug at the public’s prurience.  Her accomplishments seem to be none;  her nature, spectacular, though only in her own self-assessment:  she was “so uniquely accomplished, talented and charming that I was naturally included on everyone’s list of people to know.”   Her only actual claim to our attention is being an unusually unpleasant and messed-up person.  And for this she gets a book deal, and a review in the New York Times.

[Update April 2016]

"Whee!  See!  It's all about  meeeeeeee !!"



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