By Rebecca Traister
With raves for her book dissecting modernist marriages and a hot new journalism job at NYU, has feminism's enfant terrible finally grown up?
Jul. 09, 2007 | In her new book "Uncommon Arrangements," about the marriages of seven couples on the London literary circuit in the early 20th century, Katie Roiphe describes pacifist journalist Vera Brittain as a woman who "radiated an ambition that made itself felt as nervous charisma."
It was fitting, then, that as Roiphe sat at a Brooklyn cafe on an early summer afternoon, she picked unconsciously at her nails, chewed on a straw until it was ragged, and radiated a frank likability.
The 38-year-old author first made her name as the baby bête noire of feminism with her 1993 screed against campus date-rape activism, "The Morning After." The book made Roiphe, then a 25-year-old Harvard grad and the daughter of feminist writer Anne Roiphe, a child star of sorts, a symbol of the generational rupture in the women's movement and of a post-Reagan conservative backlash among young people. Her I'm-too-sexy-for-this-movement provocation partially inspired Tad Friend to coin the term "Do-Me Feminism" in 1994.
Uncommon Arrangements has been getting plenty of press. It’s a perfect time for this book. This is book is the literature equivalent of the HBO serial Big Love. And we can’t get enough of it. Is it because it’s salacious? Or is it because we love looking into other people’s marriage? The book, evidently, paints a picture of bright, progressive couples (or more) that see themselves above the fray of human weakness. But, eventually the piper has to be paid. Relationships crash because most people aren’t especially thrilled about being second (or third or fourth) fiddle. The book, apparently, points out that every generation thinks that it’s the end of history. That the way things done before are irrelevant and logic (‘our logic, not your logic, mom’) will steer them in the right direction. Neocon political theorist Francis Fukuyama also declared an end to history. It turns out that whether it’s Middle East policy or marital politics, we still have a little to learn from those who came before us.
The Salon article, by Rebecca Traister, was not really about the book at all. It seemed more like the writer was upset that she never got to review Katie Roiphe’s first book The Morning After. Ms. Traister appears to have been sitting on negative feelings for a while. We’re glad she could get this off of her chest. It’s healthy. There’s a line in Mean Girls in which Tina Fey pleas for the mean girls to be nicer to each other because being mean just invites the boys to do likewise. And Tina Fey’s a smart woman and not just because she wears glasses. It’s not really germane to this posting, but worth mentioning nonetheless.
There are great reviews of this book in a few locations, namely the New York Times, Time and the Christian Science Monitor, check them out.