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That Four - Letter Word

That Four - Letter Word

As soon as upon a time, the philosophy of love was a nice topic for the man of ideas, like Erich Fromm or C. S. Lewis. In recent times, the topic has been relegated to self-help, a genre that many mistrust for its propensity to propose easy solutions where there are none. Self-help has its makes use of, nonetheless: it neatly undoes the facile ideas of left (we're energyless victims) and proper (we've got total agency in our lives) alike, and it gives the calming reassurance that others on the market are as tousled as you are.

Now comes the feminist cultural critic Bell Hooks along with her new book of essays, ''All About Love,'' written in a didactic style that will merge moral philosophy with self-help. It is a warm affirmation that love is possible and an assault on the tradition of narcissism and selfishness. ''We yearn to end the lovelessness that's so pervasive in our society,'' she writes. ''This book tells us methods to return to love.''

Her best factors are easy ones. Community -- prolonged family, artistic or political collaboration, friendship -- is as vital because the couple or the nuclear family; love is an art that entails work, not just the joys of attraction; want could rely on phantasm, but love comes solely through painful fact-telling; work and cash have changed the values of affection and community, and this must be reversed.

In Hooks's view, women have little hope of happiness in a brutal culture wherein they're blindsided because ''most males use psychological terrorism as a solution to subordinate ladies,'' whom they hold round ''to deal with all their needs.'' Men are raised to be ''more involved about sexual performance and sexual satisfaction than whether they are capable of giving and receiving love.'' Many males ''will, at times, choose to silence a companion with violence rather than witness emotional vulnerability'' and ''often turn away from true love and choose relationships in which they can be emotionally withholding when they feel prefer it however still obtain love from someone else.'' Ladies are additionally afraid of intimacy however ''focus more on finding a accomplice,'' regardless of quality. The result's ''a gendered association during which males are more prone to get their emotional needs met whereas women will be deprived. . . . Men are given an advantage that neatly coincides with the patriarchal insistence that they're superior and due to this fact better suited to rule others.'' Males need to be taught generosity and ''the enjoyment that comes from service.''

Hooks contends that she and her lengthy-term boyfriends had been foiled by ''patriarchal pondering'' and sexist gender roles and by no means had a chance. She is correct that many men and women, gay and straight, still fall into traditional traps, but she does not spend a lot time on why some dive into them, nor does she consider that such is just not everybody's fate. She takes her expertise, neatly elides her personal position in shaping it, universalizes and transliterates her frustrations into pop sociology.

Hooks's ideals for love, her ''new visions,'' sound good, but there's something sterile and summary about them. The creative methods the thoughts has to console itself, the truth that relationships don't grant bliss and perfection, the important impossibility of satisfaction, how desire can conquer the will -- to Hooks, these are however cynical delusions that will probably be thrust aside in a brave new world ready ''to affirm mutual love between free women and free men.''

Her invocation of master rhetoricians like Martin Luther King Jr. and Thomas Merton throws into painful relief the strange Pollyanna quality of her prose; it's tough to imagine either of them beginning a paragraph, as she does, with ''When I first began to talk publicly about my dysfunctional household, my mother was enraged.'' She ends the book as Sleeping Magnificence, awaiting ''the love that is promised'' and chatting with angels moderately than real people. Her book confirms fears about why jargon and prefabricated ideas, including id politics and self-assist, so usually flatten expertise into cliché. Emotional waters run deep and wide. When one cannot navigate them, it is potential to take refuge in a shallow, sentimental idealism.