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Learning to Drive • Now a major motion picture starring Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley

Celebrated for her award-winning political columns, criticism, and poetry, Katha Pollitt now shows us another side of her talent. Learning to Drive is a surprising, revealing, and entertaining collection of essays drawn from the author’s own life.

With deep feeling and sharp insight, Pollitt writes about the death of her father; the sad but noble final days of a leftist study group of which she was a member; and the betrayal and heartbreak inflicted by a man who seriously deceived her. (Her infinitely patient, gentle driving instructor points out her weakness—“Observation, Katha, observation!”) She also offers a candid view of her preoccupation with her ex-lover’s haunting presence on the Internet, and her search there for a secret link that might provide a revelation about him that will Explain Everything.

Other topics include the differences between women and men—“More than half the male members of the Donner party died of cold and starvation, but three quarters of the females survived, saved by that extra layer of fat we spend our lives trying to get rid of”—and the practical implications of political theory: “What if socialism—all that warmhearted folderol about community and solidarity and sharing was just an elaborate con job, a way for men to avoid supporting their kids?”

Learning to Drive demonstrates that while Katha Pollitt is undeniably one of our era’s most profound observers of culture, society, and politics, she is just as impressively a wise, graceful, and honest observer of her own and others’ human nature.

Praise for Learning to Drive

“The kind of book you want to look up from at points so you can read aloud certain passages to a friend or lover.”—Chicago Tribune

“A powerful personal narrative . . . full of insight and charm . . . Pollitt is her own Jane Austen character . . . haughty and modest, moral and irresponsible, sensible and, happily for us, lost in sensibility.”—The New York Review of Books

“With . . . bracing self-honesty, Pollitt takes us through the maddening swirl of contradictions at the heart of being fifty-something: the sense of slowing down, of urgency, of wisdom, of ignorance, of strength, of helplessness, of breakdown, of renewal.”—The Seattle Times

“Essays of breathtaking candor and razor-sharp humor . . . [Pollitt] has outdone herself. . . . [Her] observations are acute and her confessions tonic. Forget face-lifts; Pollitt’s essays elevate the spirit.”—Booklist (starred review)
“As this book, which is greater than the sum of its brilliant parts makes clear, Katha Pollitt, who is famously a feminist, is also a humorist, a moralist and a most hilarious, wise, and incisive observer.”
–Victor Navasky, author of A Matter of Opinion

Through presidential administrations Democratic and Republican, Katha Pollitt has observed and exposed the inconsistencies and illogic of those who stand in the way of progress solely to hold on to their power. In defense of human rights and equality, she assails the corrupt and educates the misguided with compassion, Swiftian wit, and complete literary authority.

In this compelling collection, Pollitt skewers one hypocrite after another. She suggests, for example, that creationists be permitted to oppose the teaching of evolution only so long as they agree to forgo the benefits of the theory–such as flu vaccines. She gently wonders if those who denounced the decision to allow Terri Schiavo to die in peace would themselves be satisfied to be video-diagnosed by Senator Bill Frist. And in the title essay about fundamentalists’ antagonism toward sex education and STD prevention, she asks, “What is it with these right-wing Christians? Faced with a choice between sex and death, they choose death every time.”

Pollitt is one of the most eloquent and persuasive voices in American political conversation of this or any other era, and Virginity or Death! Is a marvelous demonstration of her keen insight, mordant humor, and sense of justice.

“Katha Pollitt has long and rightly been hailed for her brilliance, wit, and great insight into politics, social issues, and women’s rights. As with all of her work, I am enormously grateful for Virginity or Death!, and also deeply jealous.”
–Anne Lamott, author of Traveling Mercies


From the Trade Paperback edition.
O aborto é legalizado nos Estados Unidos há mais de quatro décadas. Três em cada dez mulheres norte-americanas já fizeram um aborto (no Brasil são duas), e cerca de seis a cada dez mulheres que fazem abortos já são mães (por aqui são oito). Enquanto as razões que levaram à legalização se tornam mais distantes no tempo – como as mortes e lesões sofridas por mulheres que usavam métodos rudimentares e perigosos, o que ainda é uma realidade para as mulheres brasileiras –, campanhas baseadas em distorções, falsas bases científicas, contraditórias alegações de princípio ou, simplesmente, fake news, ganham espaço e criam grandes obstáculos para as mulheres decidirem sobre seus corpos e suas vidas. Os defensores do óvulo fecundado procuram transformá-lo em um supersujeito, com direitos que se sobrepõem à vida e às liberdades individuais da mulher. Em nenhum outro caso se propõe que o Estado invada de tal forma a vida privada de seus cidadãos como quando o assunto é aborto. Com um texto dialógico e bem fundamentado, a ativista e escritora Katha Pollitt discute em detalhe cada um dos argumentos contrários e favoráveis ao direito de decidir sobre o aborto, desde questões científicas até os aspectos legais, filosóficos e religiosos. E mostra que por trás das estratégias dos opositores ao aborto está o combate à liberdade sexual das mulheres e, na maioria das vezes, o desejo de retroceder a um estilo de vida incompatível com o que consideramos como a vida contemporânea.
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