Last Night in Paradise

Sex and Morals at the Century's End

By Katie Roiphe
(Little, Brown and Company, Hardcover, 9780316754392, 208pp.)

Publication Date: March 1997

Other Editions of This Title: Paperback

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Last Night in Paradise is an eye-opening look at an age in which sexual liberation and one-night stands have been replaced by caution and fear. In the tradition of Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Roiphe blends autobiography and cultural criticism to give us a vivid portrait of the sexual puritanism sweeping the nation. She also captures the shadowy sense of unease that lies behind a generation's search for safety and rules, and the national yearning for a new moral order to replace the social and religious structures we have lost. Here for the first time is the history, personal and cultural, of the most profound shift in our national life in the last three decades: the movement from a wild-eyed ethos of sexual freedom to the new conservative morality of the nineties. In prose as absorbing as a novel, Roiphe gives us the inner landscape of a generation that remembers where it was on the day Magic Johnson announced he was HIV positive the way previous generations recall the day JFK was shot. We meet right-wing prophets of sexual abstinence in Washington, D.C., and public high school students and their teachers in suburban New Jersey. We enter the world of Alison Gertz, the Park Avenue debutante, and Magic Johnson, the ebullient point guard for the Lakers who boasted of satisfying six women at once, whose stories have imprinted themselves on the national imagination as moral parables for the uncertain and often terrifying age in which we live now.
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