Friday, January 10, 2014

Virginity or Death!

2006, possibly first paperback edition, from Random House
Katha Pollitt
Virginity or Death!, And Other Social and Political Issues of Our Times
Bought new for $13.95
Slightly worn paperback

Although there's some good, even great, stuff here, I didn't find that it held up as well as her earlier collections.  Ironically, although I agreed with her controversial post-9/11 piece "Put Out No Flags," I didn't think she really got going till about halfway through, with one of the best columns last, the tribute to the late Betty Friedan.  It's as if she was waiting till the 2004 campaign to really tear into the issues, the politicians, and the media.  (Her thoughts on "Dr. Judith Steinberg, aka Judy Dean," and the expectations for potential First Ladies, are still thought-provoking, in the Michelle Obama era.)

It was again fun to see glimpses of daughter Sophie growing up, from punk 13-year-old to a college student, still sharp and opinionated, not always agreeing with her mother.  (She later became a columnist herself, for Huffington Post among other places, but now seems to be in marketing.)  I laughed out loud at some of Katha's cynical thoughts on marriage, which was once again being promoted as a panacea, along with, yes, premarital virginity for girls, after the relatively liberated '90s.  As I get older, I become less aware of the zeitgeist, so I can't say how much of this book is dated, other than that Pollitt, despite an anti-war stance, actually gave Bush II a bit of the benefit of the doubt, another reason why the second half is better than the first.

And I've sort of lost track of Pollitt.  According to Wikipedia, she married Steven Lukes (presumably the Last Marxist) a few weeks after the last column here, which, despite my own cynicism, I find rather sweet.  She's published a book on learning to drive, and another collection of poems.  She still writes for The Nation, so hopefully there will be another collection in print soon.  Here's one of her latest columns: 

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