Why the poem had such a grip on several generations perhaps only the sociologists can figure out—something to do, perhaps, with that war we lived through but, too young, did not participate in; the atomic bombs (both of them) that fell on Japan; our shared fright that there wasn't much time left. The poem had so much sheer, booming resonance, stated in such immaculate periods, that it didn't seem to matter much that no one could understand it. But then, there was Prufrock. Wasn't there?
I quite enjoyed Christopher Hitchens's essay on Mikhail Lermontov's A Hero of Our Time ("A Doomed Young Man," June Atlantic). But I was surprised that Hitchens neglected to mention a couple of other literary legacies of Lermontov's semi-autobiographical "hero."
Not only is Pechorin a kind of forerunner of oblomovshchina, the literary movement of the "superfluous man," named for the "hero" of Ivan Goncharov's novel Oblomov, but Ian Fleming slyly cited Pechorin as an influence on the development of his greatest creation, James Bond, when he had M tell 007 in From Russia With Love that Tatiana Romanova, a clerk in the Soviet Union's Ministry of State Security, fell in love with him after reading its file on him, because he "reminded her of the hero of a book by some Russian fellow called Lermontov."
Could Cristina Nehring ("Fidelity With a Wandering Eye," July/August Atlantic) please share the phone numbers of those wild, lascivious lady tramps? I rather have a feeling that they are like space aliens: you hear and read an awful lot about them, but you never seem to meet one in person!
Nehring's article strongly implies that women have a sex drive and that it is equal to or greater than that of men. Speaking from thirty-five years of practical experience, I can say with certitude that nothing could be further from the truth. Of course women do have sex, but not just for the sake of having sex, as men do. Rather, women use sex to get something else they want. Generally what women want is one of the three Ms: money, monogamy, or marriage (in which case the sex comes to a screeching halt as soon as the wedding cake is cut).
The litmus test that manifests the vast difference in the sexual appetites of men and women lies in the question How many times have you turned down opportunities to have sex (especially of the opportunistic, one-nighter variety)? On this question the "sex drive" of a woman can be fairly described as "No, No, Nanette."
Oklahoma City, Okla.
Cristina Nehring's summation of evolutionary psychology and what she perceives as its general insult to women is oversimplified and inaccurate. According to Nehring, evolutionary psychologists would have it that "girls are made to sit in the straw and warm their eggs; guys are made to fly through the heavens and spread their seed." Many evolutionary psychologists do indeed suggest that evolution favored men who indiscriminately spread their seed, but their explications of that selection process certainly do not use the exalted language of Nehring's account. Evolutionary psychologists also explore how mental dispositions such as the human conscience evolved and balanced out the uglier aspects of the sex drive. Eminent thinkers in the field, such as Robert Wright, Daniel Dennett, Martin Seligman, and Steven Pinker, spend a good deal of time laying out the complex workings of the mind, and they all seem quite forward-thinking in their views on gender and sexuality. I suspect that all these writers would agree wholeheartedly with Nehring's conclusion that we are "erotic and emotional animals," and that sharing those inclinations with our partners will enrich our intimate relations. Understanding our animal nature is what evolutionists do, and they offer wise counsel about overcoming the uglier aspects of it. Nehring dismisses them too readily and unfairly.