It’s generally considered good form to actually read a book before one reviews it. But in some cases we can make an exception. If, for example, the author proves foolish or unreliable.
Consider Maureen Dowd and Mary Mapes.
Dowd, the award-winning New York Times columnist, is promoting her new book, “Are Men Necessary?” Of course, Dowd doesn’t think so. Which is fortunate for her, since she also believes we’re going away.
“There’s a body of evidence now that the Y chromosome is rotting at such a fast rate that it will go out of business in about 100,000 years,” Dowd said recently on CNN. “Now that women don’t need men to reproduce and refinance, the question is, will we keep you around?”
This line of reasoning made for a humorous column a few years ago, but it highlights the problem she’s up against: There’s a difference between a 700-word column and a 350-page book. A column can be timely for just one day, while a book is supposed to hold up over the long-term. This one won’t.
Consider her Y chromosome example. “It turns out the human Y has barely changed in the last 6 million years,” wrote David Brown in the Sept. 5 Washington Post. “Predictions that it will cease to exist in another 10 million years -- and with it, men as we know them -- may be wrong.”
So men are here to stay, like it or not. And with that, the purported reason for Dowd’s book evaporates. Unless her point is to paint men as shallow, brittle creatures.
In a portion excerpted in the New York Times Magazine, Dowd describes a conversation with “a top New York producer.” He admitted he’d once wanted to ask Maureen out, but decided that her job as a columnist made her “too intimidating.” He reportedly added that men “prefer women who seem malleable and awed,” which she presumably didn’t.
“I’d been noticing a trend along these lines, as famous and powerful men took up with young women whose job it was to care for them and nurture them in some way: their secretaries, assistants, nannies, caterers, flight attendants, researchers and fact-checkers,” Dowd writes. “So was the feminist movement some sort of cruel hoax?” she wonders. “Do women get less desirable as they get more successful?”
Well, since Dowd’s entire book seems to be about people she knows, it seems only fair to answer her questions by writing about people I know.