The Uncoupling, by Meg Wolitzer (New York: Riverhead Books, 2011).
"When the elliptical new drama teacher at Eleanor Roosevelt High school in Stellar Plains, New Jersey chooses as the school play Lysistrata -- the Aristophanes comedy in which women stop having sex with men in order to end a war -- a strange spell seems to be cast over the school. Or, at least, over the women.
"One by one, throughout the high school community, women and teenaged girls suddenly turn away from their husbands and boyfriends in the bedroom, for reasons they don't really understand. Dory Lang, a happily married forty-something English teacher, is mystified when she abruptly loses the desire to have sex with Robby, her cherished spouse of nearly twenty years. One after another, her friends admit to having the same perplexing and disturbing experience. They include Bev, a fiftyish overweight guidance counselor married to an anxious hedge fund manager; Leanne, a young psychologist of South Asian background with three boyfriends and no wish to be monogamous; and Ruth, a formerly lesbian gym teacher now married to a male sculptor, with whom she has twin boys and a new baby. And not long after Dory's daughter, Willa, has fallen under a very different spell -- one of teenaged infatuation and sexual discovery -- the sixteen-year-old suddenly feels the need to put an end to her new romantic relationship.
"As all these women worry over their loss of passion, and as the men become by turns unhappy, offended, and confused, both sides are forced to look at their partners, their shared history, and their sexual selves in an entirely new light."
"People like to warn you that by the time you reach the middle of your life, passion will begin to feel like a meal eaten long ago, which you remember with great tenderness."
Now that's what I'm talking about! I honestly don't recall liking The Ten Year Nap all that much -- back when I read it, it seemed unoriginal and tedious -- but maybe I just caught it on a bad day; after The Uncoupling, I may just be willing to go dig up another copy and give it another try. This book is brilliant -- high literature, no, but at once very funny, packed with trenchant, witty observations about upper middle class suburban culture (I'm still chuckling at the teenaged characters spending hours online in a Second Life-esque cyberworld called Farrest, and the two-person Snuggy ripoff one of the deprived husband orders called -- get this -- the Cumfy) ... and at other times, surprisingly poignant and sad. OK, I did knock it off in a day and managed to get some other things done besides, but it was a very good read nonetheless, and precisely what the doctor ordered right about now.
- Ithaca, New York
- MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.