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Against Love: A Polemic
Against Love: A Polemic
Laura Kipnis
Pantheon, 2003
224 pp., $24.00

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By Sarah Hinlicky Wilson


From I Do to You Can't

Marriage isn't as important as we're led to believe.

I first caught sight of the book at City Lights in San Francisco, the legendary shop with an extensive stock of apocalyptic literature rivaling the most millenarian of Christian bookstores. Of course, the apocalypses under consideration there are not religious in nature. They address the more immediate threats of global capitalism, Bush's presidency, genetically modified food, environmental holocausts, and various other things that the French are always getting worked up about. In Laura Kipnis' case, the specter is love.

Actually, not love. Love itself gets no airtime in the book entitled Against Love: A Polemic. Infatuation appears, and it is good. So is thrilling sex (boring sex is bad). Marriage is somewhat beside the point as the legal sanction of the greater problem—domestic coupledom. Monogamy plus permanence plus common living quarters equals very bad news indeed.

"Love" as shorthand for all such nastiness, rails Kipnis, is the one unblasphemed idol of this American life, hence the need for a polemic. It's big business: the wedding industry, romantic comedies on large and small screens alike, couples therapy. It is also work. Good relationships take work, hard work, a lifetime of work. They also produce hard workers in other arenas of life: late hours at the office might mean more funds for the family, or they might mean avoidance of the same old spouse when too many anniversaries have passed. Either way, "love" is good for the economy—which, Kipnis suspects, is at the back of our cultural training in coupledom. After all, marriage has always been about the equitable exchange of property—durable goods and women, for the most part. Really, nothing much has changed. And since we all work in order to take vacations, why should monogamy (with a biannual holiday into adultery) be any different?

It's a small step here from economics to politics: love affairs are as revolutionary as the Boston Tea Party. "[I]f adultery is a de facto referendum on the sustainability of ...

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