How to Become a Scandal

We all relish a good scandal—the larger the figure (governor, judge) and more shocking the particulars (diapers, cigars)—the better. But why do people feel compelled to act out their tangled psychodramas on the national stage, and why do we so enjoy watching them, hurling our condemnations while savoring every lurid detail? With "pointed daggers of prose" ( The New Yorker ), Laura Kipnis examines contemporary downfall sagas to lay bare the American psyche: what we desire, what we punish, and what we disavow. She delivers virtuoso analyses of four paradigmatic cases: a lovelorn astronaut, an unhinged judge, a venomous whistleblower, and an over-imaginative memoirist. The motifs are classic—revenge, betrayal, ambition, madness—though the pitfalls are ones we all negotiate daily. After all, every one of us is a potential scandal in the making: failed self-knowledge and colossal self-deception—the necessary ingredients—are our collective plight. In How to Become a Scandal , bad behavior is the entry point for a brilliant cultural romp as well as an anti-civics lesson. "Shove your rules," says scandal, and no doubt every upright citizen, deep within, cheers the transgression—as long as it's someone else's head on the block.

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By Rick (Cambridge, MA) · ★★★☆☆ · September 10, 2010
I am a giant Laura Kipnis fan. She's had a profound impact on my life. Which is weird. But whatever. This one, though... it's interesting. I'm interested that no one writes about scandals, and I can see why she was attracted to it.

Usually with Kipnis, it's enthralling for me to watch her follow... ...more
By Mjdrean (The United States) · ★★★☆☆ · January 02, 2011
Premise was intriguing but the author couldn't decide whether she was writing a popular tell-all or a thesis paper. ...more
By Eric (Islandia, NY) · ★★★★★ · March 24, 2015
I'm on page 25 of 209 page ...more
By Lorin (Brentwood, MD) · ★★★☆☆ · February 25, 2011
To all appearances, Lisa Nowak was both accomplished and sane, a holder of multiple advanced and highly technical degrees: and an astronaut, which means, inter alia, a survivor of the rigorous psychological testing given to prospective members of the space program. So it was surprising when she s... ...more
By Christopher (Seattle, WA) · ★★★★☆ · August 14, 2012
I enjoyed this book quite a lot. The style is breezy but not shallow, slightly silly but still thoughtful. It feels like perfect summer reading for people like me, who enjoy both thoughtful, academic discussion and “trashy” pop-culture. It probably helped that I have a bit of a background in lite... ...more
By Tom (The United States) · ★★★☆☆ · February 01, 2014
a nice sampler of scandal but better for the philosophical approach and psychoanalytic approach of the author.

"As scandal reveals, the social world is a brutal place, to be sure, but the scapegoat process is intrinsic to every social group. Societies have always purified themselves through shows... ...more
By Azael (Guadalupe, 67130, Mexico) · ★★★★★ · October 14, 2014
I don't usually read stuff that isn't fiction, this book made me think that maybe I should reconsider that aspecto of my literary habits.

Taking us through four cases of scandal, this book reminded me of every time someone makes the news -but not in the good way-. The author made me see that it i... ...more
By Jake (The United States) · ★★★★☆ · December 23, 2010
Who can resist a book titled How to Become a Scandal, especially when said title is printed in pink font and includes a cover photo of a man with his pants around his ankles? The answer is probably lots of readers can resist it, but I couldn’t.

Though it is packaged like so many sinful travelogues... ...more
By Melissa (Shallowater, TX) · ★☆☆☆☆ · September 03, 2013
I'm not too sure what I thought to expect from this book, it was on sale for a $1 so I thought it couldn't hurt but to give it a try after reading a brief excerpt from the chapter on Wachtler. The first two chapters were especially convoluted, where it seemed the thesaurus was used to pick out th... ...more
By Elizabeth (Palm Beach, FL) · ★★☆☆☆ · November 04, 2011
n her final scandal analysis, Kipnis writes about the author James Frey, whose blockbuster debut, A Million Little Pieces was initially heralded by Oprah Winfrey, and through her Oprah’s Book Club, catapulted to huge success. But when The Smoking Gun began to investigate Frey and determined that... ...more