... the strategic collisions of tragedy and comedy also become, as the story goes on, reliably gutting ... Carroll’s 'merry romp' is overwhelming. It is exhausting. That is the point. This is not only a book about the failures of individual men; it is also a book, as its Swiftian title suggests, about the failures of a system that has given men the power to determine the whos and wheres and hows of women’s lives. Carroll does not talk much about patriarchy or toxic masculinity or trauma or otherwise make much use of the current feminist vernacular; the book can read, at points, as preemptively dated, with its references to 'the whole female sex' and similarly winking generalizations. What it offers, though, is a kind of literary impressionism, based on 75 years of lived experience—a sense of what it feels like to have pulsing veins and fiery nerves and a teeming mind and be caught within the cold infrastructures of sexism ... The list Carroll creates, in that way, isn’t merely a list, or a method of organizing a narrative; it is also an indictment. It is a testament to the dull banalities of sexual violence. It is a reminder of the varied forms, insidious as well as obvious, such violence can take. The book stayed true, in that sense, to Carroll’s initial premise for it: It is a memoir that is rooted in maps. It suggests all that can happen, at the most local of levels, in a land that names towns after women and tells the rest of them to know their place.
When you think about Great Thinkers—those old white men with their Great White Thoughts on politics, society, morality, religion, science war—you’ll gradually recognize how they’ve tried to sell their thoughts to the entire world. And yet not a single one could sell their ideas with the passion and verve of E. Jean Carroll ... a master class in making a person believe ... she has the voice—the stylized, unmistakable, read-her-writing-about-anything kind of voice—to make a reader want to pick up whatever she’s putting down ... handled with a swashbuckling ease, even in the face of rape and grievous assault ... Carroll strikes chords that should reverberate in any empathetic person, which makes selling the proposal of turning men into chemical scrap seem like a good idea ... Carroll’s makes you feel that way because she has a voice, which brings us to number three: if you want to write something that changes the world, you better be able to write! ... Her rhetoric flashes by with the speed and power of a Formula 1 car. Fantastically written but so friendly to follow, and broken up with lists and photos, Carroll’s book is readable in a way the Great Thinkers are not and can never be.
What Do We Need Men For? is more than male bashing, but it’s certainly that; it’s also a story of a spirited woman with an indomitable personality and a zest to get on with it that’s refreshing in this age of victimization and self-analysis ... Carroll, 75, is a stylish writer and often funny; her book is full of zingers ... her narrative bounces along like a huge spray of champagne bubbles. It’s impressionistic and often interrupted by photos, strings of all-caps and exclamation points, advice lists and witty footnotes. This is all good fun, but Carroll’s humor and jaunty writing can’t completely camouflage her pain over the damage caused by some of the men in her life. This creates a friction between style and content that can be unsettling ... both darkly humorous and deadly serious. Sometimes, it can be hard to tell the difference. Regardless, she’s both having fun and spitting angry ... Carroll’s investigation is troubling, too, in ways she may not intend: It reveals not only the struggle between the sexes but also geographic and class differences. It demonstrates the bubble that Carroll, who has spent most of her adult life on the East Coast, lives in ... These are unfortunate distractions from a witty and often disturbing book. It’s unfortunate, too, that despite the heavy accusations at its core, the book offers no realistic fixes, nor is it concerned with larger issues of masculinity, ones that may (or may not) explain male behavior.
... an entertaining and rage-making romp of a read. A cross between Lucile Ball and Annie Oakley, Auntie E, as her Elle readers call her, is a fearless, madcap journalist whose breezy, bubbly writing style is a pleasure to read ... Despite Carroll’s preternatural fortitude, this is a harrowing read. She won’t admit it, but it seems her encounter with Trump stopped her in her tracks.
Carroll’s lively prose careens in constant pursuit of pleasure. A woman’s ponytail is 'fire-apple red.' Charlie Rose is a 'giant dingleberry.' A man is described as assuming 'the Dickwad Pose: hat on backward, tongue stuck out, six-pack declaring war on North Korea.' Not every single joke lands, sure, but on the whole Carroll is indefatigably funny and full of life. Which makes the times when she suddenly runs out of humor all the more devastating. 'And that’s it,' says the usually ebullient, pleasure-seeking Carroll, at the end of her story about her traumatic encounter with Trump 23 years ago, recently excerpted in New York magazine. 'I’ve never had sex with anybody ever again.' ... Carroll refuses to strike the somber tone of the victim. This might rankle some people, might make some people take her book—even her story about Trump—less seriously. She has lived long enough not to give a shit. A lifetime of cumulative trauma may have tamped down some of her sexual desires, but her life force persists in other ways. E. Jean Carroll has kept writing; she has kept speaking her mind in her own peculiar words.
Fans of her longtime Ask E. Jean column in Elle will recognize her original voice and understated style. In the #MeToo era when more than 15 women have publicly accused Trump of sexual assault, Carroll’s descriptions of the 'hideous men/ in her life stand out.
All of this listing and cataloging of offenses sounds grim, but What Do We Need Men For? is in actuality a bit of a romp. It’s a whimsical book, a book that approaches its high-concept road trip with tongue firmly in cheek. Carroll peppers her sentences liberally with bubbly asides to her readers, whom she always addresses as Ladies ... But What Do We Need Men For? is also sincerely horrified by all of the Hideous Men Carroll has experienced in her life, by all of the casual violence and disdain and misogyny that our society has allowed to flourish. The book is a romp mostly because it will be damned if it’s going to let those Hideous Men keep it from romping, and when Carroll suggests that all men should be sent off to reeducation camps, her tone suggests that she’s only half joking.