by bell hooks (William Morrow, $22) TODAY'S WORLD IS no longer "a world open to love," argues cultural critic and feminist bell hooks in this collection of essays. We no longer discuss love, she writes, and if we do it's as a myth or disappointment rather than a way of life. hooks asserts that society mistakenly views love as a noun rather than a verb, and that people must "understand love as the will to nurture our own and another's spiritual growth." Only through this contemplation can we experience, personally and culturally speaking, the "paradise" of love. Before we can accuse hooks of ditching gender politics for New Age sermonizing, however, she reveals that her former battles are far from over: Patriarchy, the "male domination of women and children [that] stands in the way of love," lurks at the root of society's current loveless state. Under these constraints, men keep their emotions to themselves while women rely on manipulation to gain the love they need. hooks maps out America's own exile from "paradise," noting the country's shift from a people-oriented society (characterized by social change in the '50s and '60s) to a thing-oriented society (due to disillusionment over the Vietnam War and an obsessive Protestant work ethic). Although at times hooks attempts to cover too much ground in a mere 237 pages, with chapters on such diverse subjects as honesty, commitment, romance, and death, she provides a refreshing spiritual treatise that steps outside the confines of the intellect and into the wilds of the heart.