Page 6, 6th June 1986

6th June 1986
Page 6
Page 6, 6th June 1986 — Malespeak by Irma (Cape, £9.95).

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Malespeak by Irma (Cape, £9.95).

AGONY aunts should, like one's own heart-of-gold maiden aunt, radiate compassion and affection for the human race (warts, ingrown toenails and all), possess a vision of both sides of the coin, and peer at the foibles and quirks of homosapiens through determinedly rosy-coloured spectacles.

Not so Irma Kurtz, who, for as long as anyone can remember, has played agony aunt to the millions of liberated females who read Cosmopolitan magazine: if she manifested the same dearth of happy expectations in those monthly columns as she does in Malespeak, one can only suspect. that a high percentage of today's Kurtz depressants are Cosmo afficionados.

In her study of the communicationgap between the genders, Ms Kurtz proves about as versed in the milk of human kindness as JR and Alexis Colby on a bad day. Women are accused of being a bundle of "soft unformed areas", of being capable only of "volatile". friendships, and of causing our society to be "shot through with neurosis''.

Men fare slightly better: they are merely self-centred, lazy, bigoted, hypocritical and generally out for number one. Little wonder, then, that all relationships between the two sexes are riddled with problems and pitfalls for the most part based on misunderstandings.

Surprisingly, in view of Ms Kurtz's Cosmo link, the author

does not espouse the cherished feminist ideal of a world where all women are women and all men try to be women (by letting it all hang out, by shedding tears under stress, by eating the proverbial quiche). Men, according to the Kurtz gospel, have suffered too much persecution at the hands of hysterical/feminist women: the time has come for the ashes of bra burning to be scattered on the Atlantic.

Despite the grimmer-thanChernobyl world that emerges from Malespeak, Ms Kurtz is, mercifully, adept at tapping the humour that lies within female-male discord. Her sharp edged sarcasm does elicit a guffaw and a giggle amid the devastation (shattered illusions, exploded myths) she wreaks.

Cristina Odone

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