Barbara Ehrenreich 1941–
American lecturer, journalist, novelist, and critic.
The following entry presents an overview of Ehrenreich's career through 1997.
A lifelong member of the Democratic Socialist Party, Barbara Ehrenreich has never been circumspect about her politics. Even critics at the opposite end of the political spectrum have found this directness refreshing: Writing for The American Spectator, Andrew Ferguson said of her frequent essays on the back page of Time magazine, "her unabashedly left-wing views make a pleasant contrast to the abashedly left-wing views found in the pages preceding it." Ehrenreich, sometimes with co-authors, has written about the world-wide student movement, health care, poverty, politics, feminism, and most of the other social and political issues of the second half of the twentieth century.
Ehrenreich was born August 26, 1941, in Butte, Montana. Her first marriage, to John Ehrenreich in 1966, and produced two children, Rosa and Benjamin, and ended in divorce. She married Gary Stevenson in 1983. Raised in a working-class atheist family that had a longstanding ethic of independent thinking, Ehrenreich became a left-wing political activist, although her college career prepared her for the hard sciences. She received a B.A. in chemical physics from Reed College in Portland, Oregon in 1964. In 1968 she completed a Ph.D. in cell biology at Rockefeller University in New York City. While at Rockefeller, Ehrenreich became involved in the Vietnam War protests and the civil rights movement.
In Long March, Short Spring: The Student Uprising at Home and Abroad (1969), written with her husband John, Ehrenreich reported on the student movements in the United States and Europe. Ehrenreich's identity as a socialist and feminist was reinforced by the poor quality of care she received during the birth of her daughter in 1970. This experience with health care was the impetus for the next book co-authored with her husband, The American Health Empire: Power, Profits, and Politics, a Report from the Health Policy Advisory Center (1970). Ehrenreich continued her exploration of women's health-care issues with two books co-authored with Deirdre English, Witches, Midwives, and Nurses: A History of Women Healers (1972) and Complaints and Disorders: The Sexual Politics of Sickness (1973). Her next book with English, For Her Own Good: One Hundred Fifty Years of the Experts' Advice to Women (1978), examined the sexual politics of the advice literature genre. In the book, the authors argued that much of the writing ostensibly intended to make women's lives better was in fact intended to keep them in positions of subservience to the male-dominated hierarchy. In The Hearts of Men: American Dreams and the Flight from Commitment (1983), Ehrenreich argued that both men and women were beginning to break away from the traditional roles of breadwinner and housewife. In Re-making Love: The Feminization of Sex (1986), co-authored with Elizabeth Hess and Gloria Jacobs, Ehrenreich voiced her concern that the women's sexual revolution had become separated from the general thrust of the feminist movement. In Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class (1989), Ehrenreich examined the drift of the Middle Class to conservatism, describing it as a defensive reflex arising from uneasiness caused by uncertainty in the economy and massive corporate layoffs. The author addressed themes such as increased selfishness and the loss of generosity in The Worst Years of Our Lives: Irreverent Notes from a Decade of Greed (1990), a collection of essays previously published in several periodicals. In Kipper's Game (1994), a science fiction novel and Ehrenreich's first work of fiction, she examined many of the issues previously considered in her essays. ehrenreich offered another collection of previously-published essays with The Snarling Citizen (1995). Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War (1997) is an alternative theory to the origins of war. Contrary to the common belief that man is aggressive by nature, Ehrenreich argues that the nature of this behavior is a codification of the relatively recent progression of mankind from prey to predator.
Ehrenreich's work has received mixed critical response. The author has been faulted for her oversimplification of complex issues and her reliance on pop culture sources and television to support her arguments, however, reviewers acknowledge her writing skill and perceptiveness. While critical of the theories presented in Fear of Falling, Joshua Henkin asserted, "the book is elegantly written, and the insight and wit that characterize her journalism are also abundant here…. Throughout, she has a keen eye for the contradictions of our culture." Despite her keen insight, critics focus on Ehrenreich's tendency to overgeneralize from a limited number of sources. In a critique of Re-Making Love, Julie Abraham stated, "[The authors] have not talked to enough people, or considered the complex interactions between sexual and social change that even their own writing illustrates." Reviewers have praised Ehrenreich's ability to entertain and to "provide aphoristic observations on modern life." Wilfred M. McClay wrote, "she is a graceful and often witty essayist, usually at her best in writing of everyday, commonplace things—food, dieting, fashion, leisure, "relationships," and pop culture—from a mildly heterodox feminist position."
Long March, Short Spring: The Student Uprising at Home and Abroad [with John Ehrenreich] (journalism) 1969
The American Health Empire: Power, Profits, and Politics, a Report from the Health Policy Advisory Center [with J. Ehrenreich] (essays) 1970
Witches, Midwives, and Nurses: A History of Women Healers [with Deirdre English] (essays) 1972
Complaints and Disorders: The Sexual Politics of Sickness [with English] (essays) 1973
For Her Own Good: One Hundred Fifty Years of the Experts' Advice to Women [with English] (essays) 1978
The Hearts of Men: American Dreams and the Flight from Commitment (essays) 1983
Re-making Love: The Feminization of Sex [with Elizabeth Hess and Gloria Jacobs] (essays) 1986
The Mean Season: An Attack on the Welfare State [with Fred Block, Richard Cloward, and Frances Fox Piven] (essays) 1987
Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class (essays) 1989
The Worst Years of Our Lives: Irreverent Notes from a Decade of Greed (essays) 1990
Kipper's Game (novel) 1994
The Snarling Citizen (essays) 1995
Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War (nonfiction) 1997
(The entire section is 163 words.)
SOURCE: "In Sickness and in Wealth," in The Washington Post, Vol. V, No. 4, January 24, 1971, pp. 1, 3.
[In the following review, Edelson praises The American Health Empire as an innovative look at the problems with health care in America, although he finds some flaws in the authors' presentation.]
The American Health Empire is yet another book about the sad state of American medicine—but don't stop reading there. This one is different. It is galvanizing, irritating, flawed and fascinating, and it presents an argument that has never been touched in what can be called the standard book on the health care crisis.
The standard book has been written under a score of titles by a score of authors. The standard book's villains and heroes are unvarying. On one side, in the black hats, are the old-line doctors, whose spokesman is the American Medical Association and whose aim is to keep American medicine disorganized in the interests of personal profit. The men in the white hats are the medical liberals, working out of modern hospitals and university-based medical centers, eager to press medical research, hopeful about drastically different methods of financing medical care (such as national health insurance) and anxious to use computers and the other tools of technology to end the present "nonsystem" of medical care for the benefit of the health consumer. If we can just help the...
(The entire section is 1118 words.)
SOURCE: "Where the Boys Aren't," in The Nation, Vol. 236, No. 21, May 28, 1983, pp. 663-65.
[In the following review, Gitlin praises the insights and synthesis of divergent cultural icons in The Hearts of Men: American Dreams and the Flight from Commitment.]
If the specter that haunts the American home is that of the woman walking out the door, Barbara Ehrenreich tells us in her stunningly subversive new book, our culture is once again deceiving us. Backlash panic has inverted the truth of the sexual war, which is that the family is threatened not because women want to get out but because men do.
Ehrenreich argues that men have been plotting their escape for thirty years because they resent having to support dependent wives and children. In earlier days, men succeeded in organizing the wage system around their breadwinner status, thereby justifying their higher pay. There was a hard economic reason why women needed to catch men and why men, having something to lose, wriggled on the hook. American popular culture has acknowledged this state of affairs in countless images: the elusive hero of westerns who rode into town only to ride out again; the grimacing Thurber husbands squeezed by grasping, all-devouring wives; Superman and Philip Marlowe and Jack Kerouac's wandering heroes.
But the breadwinner ethic has been collapsing since the 1950s, Ehrenreich maintains, and the...
(The entire section is 1183 words.)
SOURCE: "Who Started This?," in The New York Times Book Review, June 5, 1983, pp. 12, 31, 32.
[In the following review of The Hearts of Men, Tavris finds Ehrenreich's analysis of male/female role dynamics insightful, but criticizes her conclusions about cause and effect.]
Over the past two decades we've heard many criticisms of the housewife's lot, mostly from women, and counterattacking complaints about the breadwinner trap, mostly from men. Now Barbara Ehrenreich offers a provocative new argument: Male complaints about their restrictions and responsibilities, and their grievances about women, did not follow the women's movement; they preceded it. Indeed, Miss Ehrenreich says, men's weakening commitment to their wives and children gave rise to both feminism and antifeminism. Women, faced with the unpredictability of male commitment and the insecurity of the family wage system—which pays more to men than to women on the crumbling assumption that men support their families—had two choices. They could struggle for economic self-sufficiency (the direction of feminism), or they could try to bind men more tightly to them (the direction of anti-feminism).
Miss Ehrenreich draws these conclusions from her study of "the ideology that shaped the breadwinner ethic" and the collapse of that ideology in the last 30 years. In the 1950's, she shows, the same ideology that was directing...
(The entire section is 1612 words.)
SOURCE: "Beyond the Feminist Mystique," in New Republic, Vol. 189, No. 3, July 11, 1983, pp. 26-32.
[In the following excerpt, Barber summarizes developments in the Feminist Movement that he describes as anti-women and then discusses Ehrenreich's The Hearts of Men as a fresh perspective on the dynamics of male/female relationships, but oversimplified and flawed.]
This is more than the internecine bickering of ideological purists. It issues out of a basic disenchantment—a revisionism that is ready to rewrite the history of the past without yet being ready to revise its blueprint for the future. Barbara Ehrenreich, who is a loyal and unswerving feminist in the face of Elshtain's revisionism, nonetheless perpetrates an even more startling revisionism of her own in her new book, The Hearts of Men: American Dreams and the Flight From Commitment. In her fresh if highly selective rewriting of American social history since World War II, Ehrenreich argues that well before the feminist revolt, men were being led into rebellion against their traditional male roles as breadwinners and mortgage-holders by a most unlikely configuration of social movements. These included Hugh Hefner's Playboy philosophy (the magazine made its debut in 1953), which urged men to prefer an irresponsible bachelorhood where women figured only as particularly delectable consumables, to the responsibilities of marriage...
(The entire section is 1019 words.)
SOURCE: "Sex in Our Time," in The Atlantic, Vol. 258, No. 3, September, 1986, pp. 100-103.
[In the following review, Rose compares the opposite philosophies expressed in the books Re-Making Love and Willard Gayling's Rediscovering Love.]
"Higgimus, hoggimus, men are monogamous. Hoggimus, higgimus, women polygamous." My friends tell me I have got this wrong. It should be "Hoggimus, higgimus, men are polygamous. Higgimus, hoggimus, women monogamous." But I prefer my version, because it expresses a partial truth less often heard: many women have an instinct for sexual adventure, most often stifled, and many men, even promiscuous men, are at heart romantics, sexual conservatives.
These two books, with such similar titles, both addressing themselves to the unendingly interesting subject of sex in our time, could hardly be more different in outlook and intent. Moreover, they bear me out. Gaylin, a psychiatrist, is a self-confessed romantic who fell in love at sixteen, married his childhood sweet-heart at twenty-one, and has lived with her for over thirty-five years. He gives this news in the preface and refers so frequently throughout the text to the pleasures of family life that, frankly, were Gaylin not a man and a psychiatrist, one might think him defensive, or sentimental. His book's message (at one point he refers to it as a "here-and-now gospel") is that "we" need to shift our...
(The entire section is 2045 words.)
SOURCE: "Rolling Back the Lust Frontier," in New York Times Book Review, September 14, 1986, p. 9.
[In the following review, Viorst praises Re-Making Love.]
It was women—it wasn't men—whose sexual attitudes and behavior drastically changed within the past two decades. The sexual revolution, Barbara Ehrenreich, Elizabeth Hess and Gloria Jacobs compellingly argue, is actually women's sexual revolution. Thus the counterrevolution, the sexual backlash that emerged in the early 1980's, is primarily directed against women and is a threat to women's achievements in "the remaking and reinterpretation of sex."
Much of Re-making Love is devoted to tracing these achievements over the past 20 years. The high value placed on virginity, the primacy of the vaginal orgasm, the linking of femininity to passivity, the condemnation of sexual fantasy and variety were accepted mainstream doctrine until the 60's. And although there is not much new in the parts of the book describing how we got from there to here, this intelligent, thought-provoking social history makes very lively reading.
The authors begin with Beatlemania, arguing that this shrieking, sobbing, moaning outburst of mass hysteria, this total abandonment of control, was "the first and most dramatic uprising of women's sexual revolution. "True, we had seen such carryings-on before—in the swooning over...
(The entire section is 1009 words.)
SOURCE: "Not My Revolution," in The Nation, Vol. 244, No. 8, February 28, 1987, pp. 266-67.
[In the following review, Abraham finds the source material in Re-Making Love too superficial, and the resultant conclusions over-generalized.]
Singles in the cities, paraphilias in the suburbs and sex aids in Ohio: according to Re-making Love, these are all manifestations of a women's sexual revolution that far outweighs the male-dominated phenomenon known as the sexual revolution. The latter, as Barbara Ehrenreich, Elizabeth Hess and Gloria Jacobs describe it—"what Gay Talese found when he set out on his quest to see what middle-aged, middle-class men had been missing all these years"—was no revolution at all. The revolution that did occur, and that they follow from Beatlemania to the G-spot, was marked by dramatic changes in women's sexual expectations and experience.
Much of their evidence for this transformation is familiar: the appearance of clubs featuring male strippers for female audiences; Marabel Morgan's Total Woman; "home parties" where sexual paraphernalia rather than tupperware are sold; the results of surveys done by magazines like Redbook, Playboy and Family Circle. But, they argue, the sweeping change in women's sexual behavior that this evidence represents has not been acknowledged. Once again, "men have evaded a feminine innovation...
(The entire section is 919 words.)
SOURCE: "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" in New Statesman, Vol. 114, No. 2950, October 9, 1987, pp. 25-26.
[Below, Dick gives a negative review of Re-Making Love.]
In 1964, when we were nine, my best friend and I played a secret game, enacting elaborate adventures in which we would take turns to be Paul McCartney or John Lennon. The story always ended with us "falling in love": we would roll around on the floor, kissing passionately.
In Re-making Love, the roots of the Women's Liberation Movement are found in the rebellion against the female sexual predicament of the early 1960s, as evidenced by Sex and the Single Girl-ism (nice girls in big cities having affairs) and Beatlemania (which the authors see as a proto-feminist outburst against rigid gender roles and teenage sexual repression). Later, Cosmopolitan magazine and manuals like The Joy of Sex, with their "reassuring" injunctions to experiment, to seek out the ideal orgasm and assert your "right" to sexual pleasure, apparently brought non-feminist women into contact with euphoric feelings of self-determination and control. Indeed the authors claim it was at least party due to the "sexual revolution" that feminism was not limited to a "subculture of politicized, urban women", but moved into the mainstream of American culture and politics.
The book is only concerned with mainstream...
(The entire section is 867 words.)
SOURCE: "The Discreet Anxiety of the Bourgeoisie," in New York Times Book Review, August 6, 1989, pp. 12-13.
[In the following review, Morley praises the insights in Fear of Falling.]
I was a teen-age neoconservative, I came of age politically in the 1970's with a low tolerance for the foibles of my parents and an all-too-cool critique of the 1960's, especially of the decade's "permissiveness." The cultural contradictions of capitalism seemed less disturbing (and more fun) to me than the cultural contradictions of Communism, and I imagined I was rejecting middle-class culture. But in fact, as Barbara Ehrenreich's Fear of Falling makes clear, it defined my every thought.
For me, not the least of this book's achievements is its explication of my peculiar coming of age. But any citizen of the educated middle class will find something even more useful here: a persuasive account of an intellectual dispute that has been simmering in the superego of the American professional-managerial class for the last 30 years or so. This dispute has helped shape American politics.
Ms. Ehrenreich, an intellectual journalist with a gift for aphorism and the author of several books, picks up her story of middle-class anxiety in the late 1950's. At the time, it was claimed there was no need for a major political restructuring of society, although divisions of class and race remained...
(The entire section is 1223 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class, in Christian Science Monitor, Vol. 81, September 11, 1989, p. 13.
[In the following essay, Marien praises Ehrenreich's perception and compassion in Fear of Falling.]
The recent death of Michael Harrington was taken by many to symbolize the end of socialist influence in American political thought. Through his many books, including The Other America (1982), the work said to have sparked the War on Poverty, Harrington served as the conscience of the left. "I see Michael Harrington as delivering the Sermon on the Mount to America," Senator Edward M. Kennedy once said.
There may never again be a voice like Harrington's, one that could make claims on the heart without hectoring. But those who think that socialist idealism has passed from the American landscape should consider Barbara Ehrenreich.
As she did in her controversial book on gender and family life, The Hearts of Men (1983), Ehrenreich uses her current text to trace a psycho-history of the professional-managerial middle class. The result is an alternative anthropology of American social relations from the 1950s through the 1980s.
Ehrenreich's reliance on the notion of class is a socialist legacy, but in the broader sense it also owes to 19th-century authors, like Balzac and Zola, who struggled to lay open...
(The entire section is 818 words.)
SOURCE: "A Touch of Class," in The Nation, Vol. 249, No. 17, November 20, 1989, pp. 607-09.
[Although critical of several of Ehrenreich's conclusions, in the following review, Henkin finds much to like in Fear of Falling.]
Most books that make sweeping assertions about American culture, Barbara Ehrenreich argues, are really only about the middle class. When authors tell us that "Americans" are becoming "more self-involved, materialistic, spineless, or whatever," they are really referring to the relatively small "professional … middle class … from which every other group or class is ultimately [considered] a kind of deviation." In Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class, Ehrenreich claims to do consciously what others have done unwittingly.
Fear of Falling is an attempt to demythologize the professional middle class, to portray it as it is: one class among several, with its own interests, fears and obsessions. But the book is not simply an exercise in cultural anthropology. The professional middle class, Ehrenreich notes, "plays an overweening role in defining 'America': its moods, political direction, and moral tone." By tracing the attitudes of the middle class from the late 1950s through the late 1980s, Ehrenreich hopes to understand America's move to the right.
According to Ehrenreich, the middle class is preoccupied with the fear of...
(The entire section is 1860 words.)
SOURCE: "High Anxiety," in Commentary, Vol. 89, No. 1, January, 1990, pp. 64-7.
[While praising Ehrenreich's writing, in the following review, McClay finds many flaws in the thesis of Fear of Falling.]
The debacle of the 1988 presidential election not only left the very word "liberalism" badly battered, but may have administered the coup de grâce to the only opposition movement with a shred of intellectual and political vitality: the so-called "neoliberals." Hence, in 1992, the Democratic party will find that it once again has to face the relentless demands of its Left; and that Left, if it is feeling any vestigial desire to win elections, will have to come up with a plausible strategy for attracting middle-class voters, rather than continuing to invoke the deus ex machina of the unregistered and nonvoting masses—a strategy that might better be called "waiting for Godot."
Such is the very problem that Fear of Falling is designed to address. Stitching together an elaborate account of the changing structure of classes and class perceptions in postwar America. Barbara Ehrenreich hopes to provide arguments that will persuade the middle class, particularly that part of it she calls "the professional middle class." to make common cause with the working and "lower" classes, and thereby reinvigorate the Left's prospects in contemporary American politics.
(The entire section is 2194 words.)
SOURCE: "Wake Up, America," in New York Review of Books, Vol. 137, No. 3, March 1, 1990, pp. 14-15.
[In the following excerpt, Fallows examines the correlation among culture, prosperity, and security and their place in Fear of Falling.]
Economists don't like to talk about the effects of culture or of ethics on economic development, since these are such subjective and imprecise matters. But most people, including economists off-duty, assume that there is a connection between the kinds of everyday behavior a society encourages and its stability and prosperity.
In nearly every discussion about Europe's future, for instance, all sides take it for granted that a reunited Germany would be truly powerful. This has to do only partly with measurable factors like investment rates or manufacturing productivity. It also reflects widespread awe, or dread, of Germany's record of organizing human energy. For a variety of reasons having to do with national history and personal status, jobs in the government bureaucracy are among the most desirable in Korea, Japan, Singapore, and other East Asian societies with Confucian influence. Ambitious young graduates compete for positions with the Japanese Ministry of Finance or the Korean Economic Planning Board the way ambitious young Americans compete for jobs at what we drolly call "investment" banks. (This spring, 36,000 American graduating college students...
(The entire section is 3626 words.)
SOURCE: "A Plague of Gray Caterpillars and a Preacher," in The New York Times, July 13, 1993, p. C18.
[In the following essay, Kakutani negatively reviews Kipper's Game.]
It's no surprise that science-fiction and futuristic novels are a favorite forum for social critics: after all, they provide an easy means of extrapolating and satirizing the problems of the contemporary world. Certainly, this is what the author and magazine columnist Barbara Ehrenreich seems to be up to in her first novel. "Kipper's Game," a dark, convoluted piece of apocalyptic fiction that enables her to combine her scientific training (she holds a Ph.D. in biology from Rockefeller University and a B.A. in chemistry and physics from Reed College) with the moral outrage she has cultivated as an essayist and observer of the American scene.
Set in a faintly futuristic world that bears a decided resemblance to the present-day United States, Kipper's Game begins with a series of unsettling portents: the trees in Ms. Ehrenreich's unnamed city have been devoured by a plague of bizarre, gray caterpillars; a faintly sinister preacher known as Sister Bertha has begun to haunt the airwaves on a pirate frequency, and hazardous wastes have begun to leak from the local Human Ecology Complex.
Both Ms. Ehrenreich's main characters work at the Human Ecology Complex, otherwise known as HEC, or, as its...
(The entire section is 832 words.)
SOURCE: An interview in Publisher's Weekly, Vol. 270, No. 30, July 26, 1993, pp. 46-47.
[In the following interview, Ehrenreich discusses the writing of her first fiction book.]
"I feel like a criminal," says Barbara Ehrenreich. "I didn't mean to do it!" She's not referring to an act of civil disobedience from her anti-war past (about which she'd be unlikely to repent); she's talking about the reckless act of writing a novel. Kipper's Game (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Fiction Forecasts, Apr. 26), an adventurous tale involving a computer game, Nazi scientists and a mysterious illness that causes uncontrollable bleeding, is indeed not the book you'd necessarily expect from a 51-year-old writer best known for her journalism and such works of social and cultural analysis as The Hearts of Men: American Dreams and the Flight from Commitment and Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class, all written from a bracingly leftwing point of view.
That was the idea, she says. "It was escapism. I started the novel when we'd had two terms of Reagan, Bush had just been elected, and I was constantly grinding out columns and articles trying to make my good little moral points: don't fight, share things, all that stuff." (You can tell she's a mother, although Rosa, 22, and Benjamin, 20, presumably no longer need to be told to share.) "I just felt that I had to go into another...
(The entire section is 2114 words.)
SOURCE: "Ehrenreich's Game," in Michigan Quarterly, Vol. XXXIII, No. 2, Spring, 1994, pp. 375-84.
[Below, Kellman offers a mixed review of Kipper's Game.]
"When a scholar of John Kenneth Galbraith's immense sagacity has a tale to tell, it is time to put away our toys, sit quietly and attend with great care," wrote Barbara Ehrenreich in The New York Times Book Review of February 11, 1990. It is the opening sentence to the enthusiastic account she gave of A Tenured Professor. The book was Galbraith's third published novel, but he is much better known for his nonfiction, including The Affluent Society, The Liberal Hour, and The New Industrial State. Although he has been a tenured professor, at Harvard, for many decades, Galbraith's authority derives from his ability and propensity to address public issues in a manner that has engaged educated non-specialists. When an intellectual of Galbraith's immense accomplishment turns to fiction, it is time to wonder why and how, questions not directly addressed in Ehrenreich's discussion of his novel.
Six months later, Farrar, Straus & Giroux announced the signing of a two-book contract with Ehrenreich. The first would be a novel, the author's first, while the second would be the ninth volume of nonfiction that Ehrenreich has published alone or in collaboration. The novel, Kipper's Game, was published in 1993,...
(The entire section is 3983 words.)
SOURCE: "Lamb Stakes," in New Statesman & Society, Vol. 7, No. 303, May 20, 1994, pp. 37-8.
[In the following review, Hutchings provides a summary of the plot elements in Kipper's Game.]
Like the famous trick with mirrors, this book endlessly repeats itself in different sizes. The leitmotif is the search for understanding. It starts with an addictive computer game condensed on to three disks: you have to get the scrolls to the wise woman, past the black knights, past all the obstacles in the way. The game is also a pedagogical tool, a summary of all that we are capable of and all we have learned. Hey, these disks can lead to "Enlightenment, the mystic goal of mankind".
The novel follows the same path: Steve, or Kipper as he calls himself, happy hacker and the game's creator, tries to keep the disks out of the clutches of his former employers, the drug-dealing, New Ageish Harvest Enterprises, scientist-descendants of the Nazi Erntegruppe who once experimented on Jews. His dream is to give them to Sister Bertha, the pirate-radio preacher, who says that "everything we have is worth giving away". Could Sister Bertha, perhaps, be the Visitor Harvest is expecting: one of the extra-terrestrial Others who "programmed us, through the wiring of our brains", come back for the pay-off?
When you play the game, "everything is a clue". Just like the book. And so we...
(The entire section is 630 words.)
SOURCE: "The Heat and the Intimacy," in Chicago Tribune, May 28, 1995, sec. 14, p. 3.
[In the following review, Mesic compares the essay styles of Ehrenreich and Joseph Epstein.]
Other than a review, these two collections of essays by Joseph Epstein and Barbara Ehrenreich deserve something more closely resembling a National Geographic Special. For no team of Sherpaled climbers or divers finning through the crannies of a coral reef, ever discovered more diverse or improbable life forms thriving in a single culture. Well-adapted to the hot, volcanic slopes of national politics we find the highly colored clusters of barbed remarks known as commentarius Ehrenreichii. At a more rarefied elevation, flowering profusely in a sheltered nook, are the exquisite blooms of Epstein's mots, called anglophile's necktie.
Ehrenreich is passionate, public and politically engaged, with a style as subtle as a hand grenade. Epstein is intensely private, and succeeds when he has, with the smallest pressure, extracted the essence of the quietest moment of ordinary life. Their very virtues are at war with one another. Thus the same sense of wonder that comes to the naturalist confronted with life's variety, is aroused in the reader. We marvel that our much maligned American society, supposedly homogenized by the mass media, can sustain two such fiercely distinct personalities.
(The entire section is 1177 words.)
SOURCE: A review of The Snarling Citizen, in The American Spectator, Vol. 28, No. 8, August, 1995, pp. 66-7.
[In the following review, Ferguson suggests that Ehrenreich's writing is rife with factoids and faulty syllogisms.]
Barbara Ehrenreich's career as a journalist has followed an interesting trajectory. She is a witty, graceful stylist who first came to prominence in the Nation, Ms., and Mother Jones. Unlike Molly Ivins, she's a mom—a working mom!—and unlike Anna Quindlen, she never whimpers. The fat cats of "main-stream" journalism do not allow writers with Ehrenreich's attributes to languish on the leftward fringe, and so for the past several years she has been a featured essayist on the back page of Time magazine, where her unabashedly left-wing views make a pleasant contrast to the abashedly left-wing views found in the pages preceding it. She is now so certifiably mainstream that mainstream publishers are happy to get out collections of even her most quotidian pieces. Hence The Snarling Citizen, a loosely packed duffel of Ehrenreichiana previously published in Time, the Nation, the Guardian, and elsewhere.
The essays here are brief without exception; the longest couldn't be longer than 1700 words. To impose coherence she has grouped them under chapter headings: "Trampling on the Down-and-Out," "Sex Skirmishes and the...
(The entire section is 1270 words.)
SOURCE: A review of Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War, in Kirkus Reviews, Vol. LXV, No. 6, March 15, 1997, pp. 432-33.
[Below, the reviewer describes Blood Rites as an iconoclastic study in which social commentator and Time essayist Ehrenreich challenges accepted notions of why human beings wage war.]
In her tenth book Ehrenreich (The Worst Years of Our Lives, 1990, etc.) takes a multidisciplinary approach in her investigation of "the feelings people invest in war and often express as their motivations for fighting." She makes a thorough examination of a wide range of historical, psychological, sociological, biological, and anthropological literature to come up with her unique theory: that the accepted view that human beings engage in wars because of an innate aggressive, warlike instinct—especially in men—is untrue. Instead, Ehrenreich persuasively argues that the "roots of the human attachment to war" can be found in feelings and emotions that are imprinted on all of us due to events that took place many millennia ago, when our earliest ancestors spent most of their waking hours in fear of being devoured by predators. What Ehrenreich calls humankind's "sacralization of war" (the tendency to invest the emotional trappings of religious fervor in war) stems from the evolution of humans from prey into predators, the feelings engendered in "a creature...
(The entire section is 329 words.)
"The Coming Medical War." New York Review (1 July 1971): 33-38.
Examines several books on the issue of health care, including the Ehrenreichs' The American Health Empire: Power, Profit, and Politics.
Ross, Leonard. Review of The American Health Empire: Power, Profit, and Politics, by John and Barbara Ehrenreich, and In Failing Health, by Ed Cray. New York Times Book Review (7 March 1971): 3, 50.
Provides a summary of the two books and an argument in favor of national health care.
(The entire section is 108 words.)