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BOOK REVIEW: ‘Virginity or Death!’ is Red Meat for Liberals, Good Insights for All Others; Includes Controversial ‘Put Out No Flags’ post 9/11 Essay

Posted by kinchendavid on July 21, 2006

Reviewed By David M. Kinchen

Hinton, WV   – If you’re a liberal – I believe the current vogue word is “progressive” since the L-word is the kiss of death for many – Katha Pollitt’s second collection of columns from the The Nation magazine will be red meat—a classic case of preaching to the choir.

The columns gathered in “Virginity or Death!” (Random House Trade Paperback, $13.95, 288 pages) are among the best writing in the magazine. I often disagree with Pollitt’s conclusions and arguments, but her columns are the first ones I read in The Nation. She’s the equal of Molly Ivins, Maureen Dowd and any number of liberal, er, progressive male writers. Speaking of Dowd, Pollitt takes on the Gray Lady’s sole Times Select female columnist in “The World According to Dowd.” She’s got good and bad things to say about Nicholas Kristof, David Brooks and other Select’d Ones. (Note to NY Times: Drop this Times Select mishigash and let ordinary readers like me read Brooks, Herbert, Rich, Dowd, Kristof and all the rest.).

The 84 essays in this collection by Pollitt include the one where she advised her teenage daughter Sophie that she (Sophie) could put a U.S. flag out her bedroom window, but not out of the living room window. “Put Out No Flags” was the title of that controversial post 9/11 piece and it attracted lots of hate mail for Pollitt and several flags for her daughter.

Since the departure of Christopher Hitchens from the ranks of The Nation columnists, Pollitt is the only one worth reading, in my opinion. She’s even got a column or two addressing the circumstances of Hitchens’ departure.

Pollitt covers a wide range of subjects in her Subject to Debate column: Feminism, health care, reproductive rights, the rise of the Christian right, the misogyny of the Muslims, war and militarism, Mel Gibson’s Christ movie, etc.

Even if you disagree with her – as I do frequently – Katha Pollitt is worth reading. The columns cover the period from Feb. 5, 2001 to Feb. 27, 2006. The book could have used an index, which would have made it that much more useful.

Publisher’s web site: http://www.randomhouse.com

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