Florence King reviews Naomi Wolf’s latest book

The one good thing about bad books is that they can give rise to brilliant book reviews.  Such is the case with Florence King’s review of Naomi Wolf’s latest offering, Vagina: A New Biography.  This may well be the funniest book review I’ve ever read.  Admittedly, Wolf provides a reviewer with lots of material for satire and ridicule, but King is brilliant:

If you thought there was nothing new to say about female sexuality, you don’t know Naomi Wolf’s gift for saying nothing new about anything. In her 1991 bestseller, The Beauty Myth, she revealed that attractive women are luckier than homely women. A human shoehorn, she used her subsequent fame to ease herself into the role of political consultant in the 2000 presidential race and reveal that Al Gore has the personality of a tree. She took charge of his wardrobe and revealed his true nature as a resplendent autumnal tree by making him wear socks in warm, earthy colors and teaching him to cross his legs so that they showed.

Now she has uncrossed her own legs and written the life and times of her vagina.

Please, please, read the whole thing.  Just make sure you’re not drinking coffee when you read, or you may find yourself liberally spraying your keyboard and monitor.

There was only one part of the review that dismayed me, and that was King’s (accurate) observation that Wolf is a lousy writer:

At least a few feminists of the Seventies wrote well, but Naomi Wolf is a very sloppy stylist. Two brief examples will suffice: “The G-spot is actually part of the clitoris — the back of the clitoris, essentially — which in turn turns out to be much bigger.” And: “By lowering their blood pressure, men’s stroking the women they love regularly can even help protect the women from heart disease and stroke.”

Naomi and I shared the same high school English teacher, and Flossie would never have countenanced this kind of sloppiness.  It just goes to show that the Ivy League experience (Naomi went to Yale), can undo even the best education.

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  • Danny Lemieux

    Naomi’s is a sad, wasted life. Still going on and on about sex. She’s like those dead leaves you see blowing listlessly in the wind on a cold, damp winter’s day. So done, so yesterday, so empty!

  • http://photoncourier.blogspot.com David Foster

    I would prefer not to think about Naomi Wolf’s orgasms, or indeed to think about Naomi Wolf in any sexual context whatsoever, as brain bleach seems to be unavailable at my local stores.

    Mind-body interaction, which it sounds like her book is about in a very confused way, is indeed a serious and interesting subject…a good book on this is The Hour Between Dog and Wolf, by securities-trader-turned-neuroscience-researcher John Coates.

    (My most recent post: Sleeping with the Enemy

  • jj

    King is brilliant.  And it’s sad, because she’s about the last of the breed.  “Critic” was once a respected calling, demanding a degree of talent and erudition at least the equal of the purveyor of the subject under discussion, but those days seems, as with everything else of quality and craftsmanship in this society, to be on the wane.  Ms. King remains a bright spot – but she’s leaning on 80 pretty solidly, and will not be here forever.  She will leave in her wake, as the absence of John Simon has for theater and film, a void.  Simon has been gone for years with no sign of anyone taking his place, I see no one on the horizon to make us miss Ms. King the less either, when she one day, sooner rather than later at her age, realizes she has other things to do in the time left her.   It will be another sad day, and another loss.

  • GingerB

    All of Florence King’s books are hilarious. I particularly liked With Charity toward None  

  • Libby

    Wolf has raised navel gazing to a whole new level, eh. At least she didn’t label it an autobiography.

  • Mike Devx

    Libby, I think you mean “lowered navel gazing to a whole new level”, not “raised”   😉

  • Murray Lawrence

    And King’s association of Wolf’s all-searching vagina obsession with the Scarlet Pimpernel is absolutely priceless: “She seeks it here, she seeks it there, she seeks it nearly everywhere.” Film buffs will remember Leslie Howard as the Scarlet Pimpernel reciting his “poem” in that delicious manner of his: “They seek him here / They seek him there / Those Frenchies seek him everywhere / Is he in heaven, is he in hell? / That damned elusive Pimpernel.” 

  • Pingback: Naomi Wolf’s latest book: “Vagina: A New Biography” | James Russell Ament()

  • Tonestaple

    I knew you were a Florence King fan, Book, when you recently used “more to be pitied than censured” in some post or another.  I’ve been reading her since Southern Ladies and Gentlemen which I think was published in the Carter Administration – I still have that book that I bought at Waldenbooks in Cumberland Mall in Atlanta.

    My very best FK moment came when I found a copy of When Sisterhood Was In Flower just sitting on the shelf at Half-Price Books.  I could not believe my good fortune.  And, of course, I have everything published since Southern Ladies and Gentlemen.  She truly is an amzing writer, as gifted as Mark Steyn but much more vicious, which I enjoy enormously.