Mark Baker's second book, Cops, was startling in the candor of the policemen who talked to him. The cops told Baker, a civilian, things about fear and vulnerability and insecurity they usually speak of only in the confessional of their own brotherhood. Why do cops and Vietnam veterans (his first book was Nam) and now women allow this stranger into their midst?
Part of the reason has to be his technique. Like Studs Terkel, Baker tapes his interviews, allowing his subjects to reveal themselves in their own time and own way. Women, like his other books, has the virtue of revealing truth about something very familiar—women's experiences as women. Baker interviewed 100 women, from Alaska to Beverly Hills, from 18 to 87, and the text is a kind of epic song. Young women, old women; rich women, poor women; sick women, women bursting with health. He divides his book into sections: about work and men, sex and disease.
In the shifting world of male and female roles, Baker finds the common ground. One woman discusses her inclination for men with a wild streak: "He tamed very quickly. He's one of the rare people in this world I look at and I just trust him completely. He's a dear, dear human being. Occasionally, I would still like to punch him in the nose, but I like him. I really do. We got married and that was that. Thirty-six years later and here we are."
Which is often how it seems after listening to all the tales of feminist rage and male oppression. After all the fuss and turmoil, here we still are. (Simon and Schuster, $19.95)