old narcissism vs. new narcissism

Katie Roiphe’s essay in the New York Times, “The Naked and the Conflicted,” left me feeling a little annoyed. What is her point exactly? She cites examples of male novelists of days gone by (Roth, Mailer, Updike) who revel in sex and virility in their fiction. Then she cites contemporary authors (Eggers, Franzen, Kunkel) who are a bit ambivalent about sex in their fiction and whose male characters are, well, less manly. She doesn’t really offer her readers any kind of insight or analysis on this phenomena, and that leaves the whole piece feeling a little empty.

Why might today’s male writers lack that same kind of sexual gusto? Could it be the AIDS epidemic that they witnessed as children/adolescents? Could it be feminism? Could it be that they were raised by single mothers? Could it be that we’re surrounded by sex 24/7 and nothing shocks us anymore? Why doesn’t Ropihe get into this?

Maybe Roiphe doesn’t get into this because her whole essay would fall flat if she did. She clearly picked only those authors that fit her thesis and ignored the rest. And her thesis would be…sexism is better than ambivalence? Roiphe annoys me in case you can’t tell.

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~ by Valerie Palmer on January 7, 2010.

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