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Education Reporter

Book of the Month
Wing to Wing, Oar to Oar, Readings on Courting and Marrying
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Wing to Wing, Oar to Oar, Readings on Courting and Marrying, Edited by Amy & Leon Kass, University of Notre Dame Press, 2000, 636 pps., $15

Amy & Leon Kass' rich anthology of classical readings is refreshingly pro-marriage in a world where 45% of first marriages fail, and where every word, gesture and nuance between the sexes is examined for harassment potential even as the phenomenon called "hooking up" (having sex) with virtual strangers becomes increasingly commonplace.

Courtship once provided young people with the means to learn not only about the object of their affections but also about their life's goals and desires. Under the watchful eyes of the family, courtship allowed couples to discover whether or not they were a good match for marriage. "Wooing and courting have all but disappeared," the Kasses lament. "Today there are no socially prescribed forms of conduct that help guide young men and women in the direction of matrimony."

Professors for 26 years at the University of Chicago, Mr. and Mrs. Kass have a successful 40-year marriage of their own. They complain that "Ideologically driven redefinitions of sex and marriage spill over from the academic world into the general culture. Psychologists and other experts redescribe life and love in sterile jargon; movies, television, and advertising saturate our senses with titillating or shocking images; and the talk shows, filled with shameless chatter about the most intimate matters, reveal how much of private life has been deformed and dehumanized by all our theorizing and manipulation."

Wing to Wing's literary selections address basic questions about love and marriage, including: Why marry? How can I find and win the right partner? How will I know if I'm truly in love? Contributing authors include some of the greatest of the ages, from Homer and Plato to St. Thomas Aquinas, Shakespeare, Rousseau, and Tolstoy. Several chapters of Genesis fit in nicely, yet the book doesn't overlook contemporary authors or perspective. An excerpt from former Yale Professor Allan Bloom's 1987 book The Closing of the American Mind explores the topic of relationships, and a poignant story about moral values and family ties by Indian immigrant Chita Divakaruni is absorbing and timely.

University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, IN 46556; ISBN 0-268-01960-6.

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