A friend sent me this exquisitely-written book review from this month’s The Atlantic. Written by Caitlan Flanagan, the article explores how young women reconcile the so-called Boyfriend Story–“the gossamer-wrapped quest for true and perfect love”–with “the reality of the sexual era in which we live”. She does so through the lens of Anita Shreve’s novel, Testimony, for which she has high praise.
While Flanagan’s thesis is well-constructed, I want to highlight the calibre of her writing. Consider this section:
Today’s teenage girl–as much designed for closely held, romantic relationships as were the girls of every other era–is having to broker a life for herself in which she is, on the one hand, a card-carrying member of the over-parented generation, her extended girlhood made into a frantically observed and constantly commemorated possession of her parents, wrought into being with elaborate Sweet 16 parties, and heart-tugging video montages, and senior proms of mawkish, Cinderella-dream dimensions–and on the other hand she has been forced in a sexual knowingness, brought upon her by the fact that, beginning at a relatively tender age, she has been exposed to the kind of hard-core pornography that her own mother has probably never seen; that her earliest textbooks on puberty have included, perforce, eye-opening and often upsetting information on everything from the transmission of HIV to the range and expression of sexual orientations; that she has been taught by her peer culture that hookups are what stolen, spin-the-bottle kisses were a quarter-century ago. She is a little girl; she is a person as wise in the ways of sexual expression as an old woman.
Most of that is a single sentence, long but utterly intelligible.
Every once in a while I encounter a piece of magazine writing that I recommend as course material to friends and family who teach English and communications. This is one such piece.