Secrets Your Family Does Not Want To Know

Anne Roiphe was never at the top of my reading list. In fact I’ve never knowingly read a word she’s written. I’m ambivalent about adding her to my “must read” even though I was fascinated by her daughter Katie Roiphe’s “Sharing Secrets,” which appeared in the March 27, 2011 Style section of the NYTimes.

Before Katie was born, Anne was a party girl, hanging out with swingers and druggies – and dragging her kids to some of this mayhem. (Can you say child neglect?) Anne was also a name dropper, making sure everyone knew it was A-list married men that she was sleeping with. Katie says that Anne says she had the morals of a four-year-old. An insult to four-year-olds.

As I read “Sharing Secrets,” I was saying thank you, thank you over and over again to my more or less normal parents, especially my mother, that they did not subject me to any Roiphe stuff: family members stealing valuables from a dying woman; first hubby who also stole and visited prostitutes; booty calls in the bathroom. I kept wondering did Anne do it for the shock value or did she really want to talk to her daughter and lack the courage?

Katie says she reacted to Art and Madness by donning her professorial hat so that the sex and drugs and booze were happening to someone else. To me that’s scarier than confronting the stuff head on because then she can decide to excavate even deeper than her mother wanted.

The current take on this pre-lib behavior seems to be that the women were at fault for worshiping at the feet of the likes of Plimpton, Styron, Mailer, et al. But what of the men’s treatment of each other? Were they all so competitive and substance addled that they didn’t care whether their wives did the sex, drugs, neglect?

As for Anne Roiphe, she no longer swings, but I conclude that she is not a nice person. She informed Katie about her earlier life by handing her a copy of the finished manuscript.


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