The proliferation of dating websites, printed personals, and self-help relationship books reflects the new ways Americans seek close, personal relationships. Exposed to changing and often conflicting values, trends, and fashions---disseminated by popular culture, advertising, and assorted "experts"---Americans face uncertainties about the best ways to meet important emotional and social needs. How do we establish lasting and intimate personal relationships, including marriage?
In Extravagant Expectations Paul Hollander investigates how Americans today pursue romantic relationships, with special reference to the advantages and drawbacks of Internet dating compared to connections made in school, college, and the workplace. By analyzing printed personals, dating websites, and advice offered by pop psychology books, he examines the qualities that people seek in a partner and also assesses the influence of the remaining conventional ideas of romantic love. Hollander suggests that notions of romantic love have changed due to conflicting values and expectations and the impact of pragmatic considerations. Individualism, high expectations, social and geographic mobility, changing sex roles, and the American national character all play a part in this fascinating and finally sobering exploration of the efforts of men and women to find love and meaning in life.
Extravagant Expectations is a provocative book. Paul Hollander gauges the current state of romance, individualism, pragmatism, and relationship formation in today's society while giving us some historical and cultural perspective based on the novels and studies of the American and European dating and mating scene over the last several hundred years. His thesis is that Americans want so many things out of love, (and so many contradictory things) that love and romance are muddled-and perhaps unattainable at the level of pickiness and idealization-demonstrated in personal columns, on line, and in the popular literature. There is much to chew on here: and Dr.Hollander's intriguing insights will no doubt cause debate as well as insight. He advises us that our reach may extend further than our grasp, and that our choices may be more limited than we want to acknowledge by our own characteristics, the contingencies of life, and the life cycle. Whether you agree with him or not, you will want to read this book. -- Dr. Pepper Schwartz, professor of sociology, University of Washington; author of The Normal Bar
Paul Hollander brings the cool precision of the sociologist and the sharp insights of a cultural critic to this investigation of American conceptions of romantic love in the 21st century. Hollander is the Alexis de Tocqueville of today's dating manners and mores, and his travels through the American romantic landscape provides a fresh perspective on the cultural contradictions in the restless American pursuit of happiness. -- Barbara Defoe Whitehead, codirector of National Marriage Project at Rutgers; author of Why There Are No Good Men Left
Paul Hollander's stimulating and long overdue exposition of the vagaries of romantic love in the modern age is broadly conceived and extensively researched. His dispassionate and careful analysis of current trends allows him to identify contradictory forces that inevitably make for a pervasive sense of dissatisfaction and loss among Americans. In this the book serves as a necessary corrective to much that is currently peddled on the topic of love and marriage by pop-psychologists and the flourishing advice industry. What is more, in spite of his melancholic findings, Hollander frequently manages to be entertaining-no mean achievement for a social scientist! -- Brigitte Berger, Boston University
In this sociological study of modern American ideals of romantic love, Hollander (sociology, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst; The End of Commitment: Intellectuals, Revolutionaries, and Political Morality in the Twentieth Century) departs from his previous focus on criticism of communism and the Left to examine the impact of individualism and moral relativism on the expectations of romantic relationships. He compares and contrasts 19th-century romanticism with American individualism and examines popular self-help books, print personal ads, and individual profiles on a popular online dating site. By studying self-promotion and descriptions of ideal partners in print and online personal ads, Hollander successfully identifies the desirable traits and characteristics sought by those looking for a romantic partner. He concludes that these attributes are often deeply in contention with one another because of the conflict that arises from individualism vs. the need for community. VERDICT While popular works have been published about personal ads and online dating, Hollander provides a unique scholarly examination about how they mirror contemporary American romantic ideals. Recommended for readers with a serious interest in sociology and contemporary American culture. * Library Journal *
Here's something genuinely new under the summer sun: a book that can be enjoyed simultaneously by anyone with an interest in modern sociology - and by anyone who has ever read or placed a personals ad. Put differently, it's a book for everyone interested in understanding how, and why, the pursuit of love and sex today differs so radically from what came before....In the end, [Hollander] is among the few lately to have looked into the tea leaves of modern romance and found something new to say. He has said it, moreover, with a fresh eye, new insights, and a humane and at times even humorous heart. Fans of his previous work will not be surprised by having their high expectations met. But they will be pleased to see that this latest book is not only informative and interesting, but also entertaining as real sociology rarely is - in all, an extravagant accomplishment. * National Review *
Hollander looks at the ways in which users of Internet dating sites present themselves and the ideal mates for whom they quest. A 'fun orientation' is the No. 1 quality most sought after, even in the religiously and politically conservative Midwest and South. Although many of the Internet romance-seekers claim to be searching for serious long-term relationships, few express much interest in the qualities that have traditionally denoted husband and wife material, such as being a good provider or skilled homemaker. * The Wall Street Journal *
In Extravagant Expectations: New Ways to Find Romantic Love in America (Ivan R. Dee), Paul Hollander deconstructs upscale personal ads from both sides of the Atlantic. * The Wilson Quarterly *
Paul Hollander's new book, Extravagant Expectations (Ivan Dee), is not only about the personal, but about the personals, those small-ads in various publications in which people seek what used to be called a lover, paramour or consort, but must now be called a partner. With the eye of the true sociologist, he uses these brief messages to peer into the soul not only of the individuals concerned, but of western, and particularly American, society. What emerges is both funny and melancholy, and by no means reassuring: but perhaps society has always been one of those things that, like death and the sun, cannot be stared at for too long, for it is never reassuring....We are in revolt against what Hollander calls `the limitations imposed by our mortality, genes, social and physical environment, and chance,' as Satan was in revolt against God. Extravagant Expectations is an excellent illustration of how the examination of a seemingly minor social phenomenon can soon lead to the deepest questions of human existence. * New English Review *
The book "Extravagant Expectations: New Ways to Find Romantic Love in America" only appears to be contraband. The cover has a newspaper personal ad - "Wanted: QUALITY MAN" - over a shiny red heart. The title gives the impression that the key to the ultimate search for true and never-ending love lies just inside the cream-colored jacket. But a reader with that intent is in for a cold awakening. * The Washington Times *
Hollander differentiates his fellow countrymen from people on this side of the Atlantic. Americans' `popular romanticism does not follow the European idea that finding the perfect soul mate is outside the control of the individual, that it is something mysteriously pre-ordained, a matter of fate or providence.' Instead they believe, go-getting positive thinkers that they are, `that there are many individuals out in the world who may be ideal long-term partners, provided that the appropriate methods are used to locate them.' * The Spectator *
Hollander is among the few lately to have looked into the tea leaves of modern romance and found something new to say. He has said it, moreover with a fresh eye, new insights, and a humane and at times even humorous heart. Fans of his previous work will not be surprised by having their high expectations met. But they will be pleased to see that this book is not only informative and interesting, but also entertaining as real sociology rarely is - in all, an extravagant accomplishment. * Book Review Digest *
In his revealing book about the search for romantic love in the US today, sociologist Hollander (emer., Univ. of Massachusetts) has written an exceptionally readable volume that is informative and entertaining. From his story about the correlation between Flaubert's Madame Bovary's romantic aspirations and the pursuits of today's women who appear to be in love with illusions of romance, to the analytical research of online dating, this book is candid about the quest for romance. Looking at Match.com and utilizing sample populations, the author analyzes their applications and finds unexpected results. For example, material considerations are not as paramount as compatibility and educational levels. This quote from the book illustrates the paradox that US society faces in the search for romantic perfection: "High expectations, the discontents of modernity and popular romanticism thus remain intertwined. Contemporary American society is permeated by a multitude of conflicting desires and values that make it difficult to establish and maintain emotionally gratifying long-term relationships, including marriage." Hollander is clear that Americans have so many choices presented by networking that it is difficult to discern their real desires in the modern world of Internet dating. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. * CHOICE *
The perspective throughout is thoughtful, balanced, and respectful... often witty. * Society *