How to Become a Scandal: Adventures in Bad Behavior

By Laura Kipnis (Holt)

Parul Sehgal, Bookforum Sept. 20, 2010

Everything you think you know about James Frey is wrong. You’re wrong about Eliot Spitzer, too, and Linda Tripp, and any number of those nutty and libidinous rogues in our public pillories. According to Laura Kipnis’s coruscating new study of scandal, what we talk about when we talk about transgression is in a terrible muddle. We can’t explain why one public figure’s infidelities outrage us while another’s are ignored; why some can rehabilitate their reputations while others are permanent pariahs. “We lack any real theory of scandal,” writes Kipnis, whose taxonomy of misbehavior leads us “like latter-day Darwins in the Galapagos of human peccadillo,” tramping through the tabloid muck in search of specimens.

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