It is pretty rich that Peter Morgan should ask us to swoon and sympathize with a Queen who invokes the divine right of kings in an argument about why she needs a yacht. And it’s richer still that he should attempt, in the same play, to persuade us that the Queen is a woman of deeply liberal convictions.
Few would disagree that the systems for preventing and prosecuting sexual assault on US campuses are in need of change. But the efficacy and fairness of recent reforms that focus on making college grievance procedures more favorable to complainants and on codifying strict new definitions of sexual consent remain highly questionable.
It is one of the uncontested wisdoms of our era that “marriage is hard work.” The belief that conjugal happiness can be earned only by rigorous and sustained emotional labor is so deeply entrenched in the common culture that when Amy Dunne, the female protagonist of David Fincher’s new movie, Gone Girl, boasts cheerfully of finding marriage “easy,” it is as if she had entered Dracula’s castle scoffing at the existence of vampires: the audience knows at once that her hubris must be punished.
Mess has always inspired fervent emotions in Janet Malcolm. It agitates her. It depresses her. She considers it her enemy. The job of a writer, she likes to remind us, is to vanquish mess—to wade onto the seething porch of actuality, pick out a few elements with which to make a story, and consign the rest to the garbage dump. Images of clutter and panic-inducing domestic chaos crop up frequently in her work, not just as metaphors for the failure or absence of art, but as advertisements for her own narrative discipline. But if literal messes appall Malcolm, they also fascinate and attract her.
A man living under threat of death for nine years is not to be blamed for occasionally characterizing his plight in grandiloquent terms. But one would hope that when recollecting his emotions in freedom and safety, he might bring some ironic detachment to bear on his own bombast. Hindsight, alas, has had no sobering effect on Rushdie’s magisterial amour propre. An unembarrassed sense of what he is owed as an embattled, literary immortal-in-waiting pervades his book.
In her new “biography” of the vagina, Naomi Wolf warns that her subject is in danger of being trivialized by its cultural ubiquity. The vagina, properly understood, is, “part of the female soul” and the medium for the “meaning of life itself.” In order to free female sexuality from patriarchal calumny, pornographic distortion, and some of the damaging myths of second-wave feminism, it is essential, she argues, that women reclaim the “magic” of the vagina and restore it to its rightful place at “the center of the universe.”