A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
We all relish a good scandal—the larger the figure (governor, judge) and more shocking the particulars (diapers, cigars)—the better. But why do people feel compelled to act out their tangled psychodramas on the national stage, and why do we so enjoy watching them, hurling our condemnations while savoring every lurid detail?
With "pointed daggers of prose" (The New Yorker), Laura Kipnis examines contemporary downfall sagas to lay bare the American psyche: what we desire, what we punish, and what we disavow. She delivers virtuoso analyses of four paradigmatic cases: a lovelorn astronaut, an unhinged judge, a venomous whistleblower, and an over-imaginative memoirist. The motifs are classic—revenge, betrayal, ambition, madness—though the pitfalls are ones we all negotiate daily. After all, every one of us is a potential scandal in the making: failed self-knowledge and colossal self-deception—the necessary ingredients—are our collective plight. In How to Become a Scandal, bad behavior is the entry point for a brilliant cultural romp as well as an anti-civics lesson. "Shove your rules," says scandal, and no doubt every upright citizen, deep within, cheers the transgression—as long as it's someone else's head on the block.
THE LOVELORN ASTRONAUT
If any one scandal in recent memory provides an illustrated manual in the art of leaking massive amounts of unconsciousness in public, it was the case of the "Celestial Love Triangle." Scandals come and go, but this one was like a gift from the gods to scandal lovers everywhere, though perhaps in a worrisome too-close-to-home sort of way for anyone who's ever been unceremoniously dumped then contemplated some kind of dramatic gesture in the feeble hope of rectifying things, not that I know anyone like that
Adventures in Bad Behavior