The Female Thing

Calling It Quits and Moving On
New books dissected over email.
Dec. 8 2006 6:21 PM

The Female Thing

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Dear Daphne,

We're back here in another round, and I start to feel like we're one of those dysfunctional couples, rehashing the same argument and never getting anywhere. At some point, we must call it quits and move on, in the hopes of finding understanding and fulfillment elsewhere. But one last time: Yes, men can be disappointing, especially when expected to meet too many of one's needs. No, I'm not against psychological insights. (That was one actually, in the previous sentence.)

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One of our main disagreements is over what constitutes seriousness. You don't like the idea of mixing it up stylistically or the use of what you call "irritating juvenile locutions." I'd just call this … slang. Yes, I shuttle between seriousness and playing around, but I believe this is a constant condition of mental life itself: the persistence of the juvenile within the so-called rational adult (cf. our previous disagreement over brattiness).

Here's one thing on which we do agree: the necessity of a sense of humor, or so you indicated at the end of your second post. As far as spanking goes: Actually it's funny, in addition to everything else. It's that combination of rhythm and regression (there's the juvenile sneaking up once again). By the way, do you know Henri Bergson's theory of comedy—that what we find funniest is the juxtaposition of the human and the mechanical, with Charlie Chaplin's repertoire of pratfalls and funny walks as the great example of comic genius?

Thus my question: Do we really need to make such a fetish out of seriousness? To me this is too mechanical; it's intellectually rigid. How about the example of Chaplin's Tramp instead, anti-authoritarian and a goof; a serious juvenile? The Female Thing is written in this mode—you know, like a serious banana peel. Try rereading it in that spirit.

Best,
Laura

Laura Kipnis' new book, How To Become a Scandal, will be out in paperback in September. Her previous books include Against Love: A Polemic, and The Female Thing: Dirt, Sex, Envy, Vulnerability.

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