Man Without Qualities

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Trashing Your Own

It's time for the author of a book reviewed by the very same paper in which the author writes a twice-weekly column to sit up and pay attention when the review includes passages like this:
But what makes Dowd an exceptionally good columnist on the Op-Ed page - her ability to compress and juxtapose, her incisiveness, her ear for hypocrisy and eye for the absurd - does not enable her to produce a book-length exploration of a topic as complex as the relations between the sexes. Consumed over a cup of coffee, 800 words provide Dowd the ideal length to call her readers' attention to the ephemera at hand that may reveal larger trends and developments. But smart remarks are reductive and anti-ruminative; not only do they not encourage deeper analysis, they stymie it.

The New York Times review also describes the present state of the "research" on which the book's title is derived:
The title, "Are Men Necessary?," refers nominally to scientific speculation that the Y chromosome, which has been shedding genes over evolutionary time, may disappear entirely within the next ten million years, a hypothesis countered by newer studies showing that the Y of the human species has been stable for the past six million years.
I haven't read the book, but the phrasing of this passage suggests that the book does not mention the fate of the quickly faded research. If that's correct, it would just be one more example of Ms. Dowd's common approach to her source material: "It's better than true, it makes for a good shallow quip without enough substance to be wit."

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