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How to Become a Scandal: Adventures in Bad Behavior

3.33  ·  Rating Details ·  178 Ratings  ·  51 Reviews
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),
ebook, 224 pages
Published August 31st 2010 by Metropolitan Books (first published August 24th 2010)
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Sep 10, 2010 Rick rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 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 a chain of logic with commentary on our society, jumping from point to point, weaving a narrative, but moreso feeling like you're on a journey of discovery with her - because she doesn't come into things
Jul 03, 2011 Jan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Ever wonder why people in "high places" always seem to get themselves embroiled in scandals that could have been (seemingly) easily avoided?

I don't think that Kipnis's book does a particularly good job of answering that question. At the end of it, I still don't understand really why high profile politicians (I'm looking at you, John Edwards) think they can father illicit love children and use campaign funds to support their mistresses without getting caught, or why high-profile male ministers ra
Premise was intriguing but the author couldn't decide whether she was writing a popular tell-all or a thesis paper.
Eric Klein
Im gonna try and finish this book soon
Lorin Kleinman
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 showed up in Orlando–having driven 950 miles from Houston, apparently using diapers along the way–and, wearing a bizarre disguise, attacked Colleen Shipman, her rival for the affections of fellow astronau ...more
Aug 14, 2012 Christopher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 literary theory--especially psychoanalytic theory--and that I was not already familiar with any of the scandals described, with the exception of the Lewinsky/Tripp/Clinton scandal, which was (coincidentally? ...more
Oct 24, 2010 Kristy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
In this book, Kipnis explores the nature of the scandal in our culture -- why do we love to heap scorn on our scapegoats? Why do people do such stupid things? Why this one and not that one? The book is structured around four different case-study scandals: Lisa Nowak (the diapered astronaut), Sol Wachtler (the judge who blackmailed his mistress), Linda Tripp (Monica Lewinsky's "friend" who taped their conversations about Clinton), and James Frey (the author of a memoir that turned out to be more ...more
Mia (pens-and-parchment)
Required reading for school. Very intriguing premise and captivating language. Definitely a bit wordy for my taste, though.
Nov 15, 2016 Randy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An academic treatment of the subject of shaming and scandal. A good book to read after reading the book,So You Been Publicly Shamed" by Jon Ronson. Great read.
Sharad Pandian
"Scandals are like an anti-civics lesson: there to remind us of that smidge of ungovernability lodged deep at the human core which periodically breaks loose and throws everything into havoc, leading to grisly forms of ritual humiliation and social ignominy"

Kipnis is insightful and original as usual (for example, while she looks at the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal, she ignores the central pair and instead looks at how the culture reacted to Lewinsky's friend who taped their conversations
Dec 16, 2010 Jake rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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—rendered in easy-on-the-eyes enlarged font and roomy line spacing that creates the illusion it will be quick and fun—the book is highly reflective. At times, it is more of an academic thesis than a naug
Sherry Howland
Oct 03, 2010 Sherry Howland rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed Kipnis' first book, "Against Love: A Polemic," so when I saw the NYTimes review of "How to Become a Scandal," I knew this was going to be a Must-Read.

First the pros: FUNNY! Kipnis' sense of humor is spot on and ravaging. There were so many quotable passages, I finally just gave up trying to remember them. She does a more than servicable job of explaining the twisted mind-trips we all play on ourselves in order to justify bizarre and thoroughly self-destructive behavior, the "bl
Melissa Bond
Aug 07, 2013 Melissa Bond rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 the most obscure adjectives that interrupted the flow of the sentence. Another interruption were the careless grammatical mistakes, giving the assumption this book was edited rather quickly. It was a major ...more
Feb 23, 2012 Stewart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Laura Kipnis’ "Against Love" is one of the most insightful books I have read about male-female relations and marriage, a subject not treated in isolation as in so many other books, but explored in the context of social, political, and economic systems in the U.S. Kipnis is a professor at Northwestern University.
Her humor and insight can also be found in her latest book, "How To Become A Scandal: Adventures in Bad Behavior." She examines four recent American scandals: astronaut Lisa Nowak’s biz
Elizabeth Periale
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 his book was less fact than fiction, Oprah came down as hard on him as she had originally praised him, this time demonizing the author and focusing on herself and her betrayal at his hands.

Kipnis quotes
Kate Woods Walker
Once I accustomed myself to the author's self-consciously jazzy prose style, I settled in to thoroughly enjoy her dissection of four recent scandals. Of the four cases presented, I was unfamiliar only with that of judged-turned-jailbird Sol Wachtler. And what a case it was!

Kipnis, after a brief and unsatisfying look at the Diapered Astronaut scandal of Lisa Nowack, really hit her stride with the Wachtler case. Her talent as a spelunker in the psychodramas of the notorious can't be questioned--s
Nov 02, 2010 Alicia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book talks about certain scandals of the last 15 years or so. However, it doesn't talk about ALL the scandals that have occurred over those years. Actually, it really only highlights 4 different scandals. But what it does investigate is the question, "What makes something a scandal?" Some things are a no-brainer. Famous person+Shady situation=scandal. But not all scandals have famous people. So what else do they have to have? An Astronaut diaper? Sure, that will do it? An ugly whisle blower ...more
Azael Márquez
Apr 30, 2014 Azael Márquez rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: no-respaldados
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 is completely normal to be held at the tip of our toes every time someone fucks up, and even indulged a little on why we love that stuff in the first place.

The first half of the book is about two cases wh
Apr 07, 2011 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To cop a lick from my friend Tom, I love me some Laura Kipnis. I've read all five of her books and loved four of them. The first, Ecstasy Unlimited: On Sex, Capital, Gender, and Aesthetics is mired in the obscure, post-feminist, post-Marxist, post-structuralist horseshit that has rendered most academic writing (in the humanities, at any rate) for the past forty years or so irrelevant and unreadable. The other books though, are smokin'. She reminds me of a nicer Mary McCarthy - whip-smart, an imp ...more
Jan 05, 2012 Jafar rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a big Laura Kipnis fan, I was really looking forward to reading her latest book. The great writing and the wit and humor are all still there, but I just didn’t think the book delivered what it intended. Kipnis wants to analyze two things: 1) why people get themselves into scandals, especially the really weird and mind-boggling types of scandal; 2) why the public is so fascinated with scandals. While she did a much better job addressing the second question, the first still remains largely a my ...more
Feb 01, 2014 Tom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 of moral indignation, dumping their burdens off onto designated candidates- all the abnormality and moral disability that threatens to poison the community."

"At any moment you can be kicked out on your a
Jan 06, 2013 jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written by a professor at Northwestern University, this is a look at the bad behavior and life-altering decisions that people make on a level that garners them national attention.
Kipnis covers many national scandals that were recent as of the book's 2010 printing, but primarily focuses on four cases as a jumping-off point to discuss possible reasons why the person behaved as they did and why society reacted as it did. Though this is a book of pop psychology masking as sociology (Kipnis has no me
John McNeilly
Jan 23, 2011 John McNeilly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book on the "newly arrived" shelf at the library and thought the topic sounded interesting. And it was: I greedily devoured it in a few sittings. A provocative analysis of how the media covers and the public responds to modern scandals. What is about an individual's public self-immolation that so captures our communal imagination? Why do these sad implosions engage us for weeks and months on end? If you'd like to ponder these issues in a hilarious and enlightening manner, you'll lov ...more
Jul 25, 2011 Stacie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Perfect for the person looking for a social disection of modern scadals.Or good for the type of person who enjoys reading the National Enquirer. The book breaks down several examples and tries to explain the driving force behind them.

Stories include:
Lisa Nowak & Bill Oefelein :affair
Clara Harris running over her cheating husband
Sol Wachtler, ex-chief justice NY Court Appeals: extortion, affair, etc
Linda Tripp
Oprah Winfrey
Ketevan Natsvlichvili
Some insightful analysis, written in a witty and entertaining way. The authors point out very many things that are wrong in our society, but also reiterates that most are intrinsic. The biggest point is that; we do things knowingly and consciously despite the fact that we often know the consequences. I liked the fact that the author didn't deem herself righteous and was not preaching, she is simply deciphering our psyche leaving it to us to make conclusions.
Feb 25, 2013 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ferociously funny and full of insight, a delightfully wicked read. Examines our behavior by actually provoking it and while recognizing it doesn't altogether excuse it. Brought up scandals i'd forgotten about and looks in-depth at really memorable ones. LK makes sociological and pop culture analysis juicy but no less astute.
Mauoijenn ~ *Mouthy Jenn* ~
I don't know why I wanted to read this book. I guess it looked interestingly enough and so I opened it up. It was full of 3-4 storied about what people did to become or make their lives a scandal. You can read all of this plus more on the internet. So why the need for a book? Really?? Don't waste your time.
Mar 31, 2012 Marianne rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Pretty ho-hum. So much introspection/self-inspection from the author. It over-analyzes everything which took the fun out of the subject matter. Too scholarly, I guess I thought it would be cheekier.
Jan 09, 2012 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent piece of cultural criticism that provides a structural analysis of public scandals (why we love them and how they reinforce societal norms, despite the hypocrisy of our moral outrage. Lipnis focuses on four recent scandals as exemplars for her critique.
Niya B
Dec 15, 2014 Niya B rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kipnis' analysis on the key components of a scandal are useful, but what is worth ore are her insights into the crucial role that the scandalizers and the scandalized play in creating the reality we live in. The acerbic prose makes consuming the text even more enjoyable.
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Finished the book 1 1 Jul 18, 2016 11:13AM  
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Laura Kipnis is the author of Against Love: A Polemic; How to Become A Scandal; The Female Thing; Bound and Gagged; and the upcoming Men: Notes from an Ongoing Observation (out in November). Her books have been translated into fifteen languages. She's written essays and criticism for Slate, Harper’s, Playboy, New York Times Magazine, New York Times Book Review, and Bookforum. A former filmmaker, s ...more
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