Jake's thing /

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Main Author: Amis, Kingsley. (Author)
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Review by Kirkus Book Review

A savage, often unfunny and unfocused adieu to sex--at least as it's practiced in the ""permissive society."" Jake is a 59-year-old Oxford don (ancient Mediterranean history), and his ""thing"" is his penis, which has been failing him lately with fat wife Brenda. This problem takes him into the world of flaky psychotherapy. . . and pictorial pornography--since one of the measures recommended by smarmy, boyishly Irish Dr. Rosenberg is the study of dirty pictures ""on at least three occasions for a minimum of fifteen minutes at a time. See that this leads to masturbation at least once, preferably twice."" Jake finds today's gross porn thoroughly un-erotic; nor is he stimulated much by the rest of Dr. Rosenberg's therapeutic program: ""nongenital sensate-focusing,"" writing out sex fantasies, monitoring sleep-time erections with a ""nocturnal mensurator,"" and enduring the talky-touchy-feely of a ""Workshop"" encounter group. (""If there's one word that sums up everything that's gone wrong since the war, it's 'Workshop.' After 'Youth,' that is."") But Jake does soon find himself fully functional one surprising night up at Oxford--with an old flame who, though she inspires his quasi-lust, is otherwise a total disappointment: ""I mistook her egotism for sparkle. . . her cheap jeering for healthy disrespect. . . ."" In fact, Jake realizes how little he cares for women in general--Oxford is being picketed by feminists, Jake's wife takes off with a fatuous friend; and, when Jake's problem is at last diagnosed correctly (a treatable hormone problem), he does a run-down on female foulness and decides to leave well enough alone and remain contentedly impotent. Does all this work--as satire, character comedy, or polemic? Not really. Because Amis' primary targets are a bit dated (in the U.S. anyway) and obvious. Became Jake is an inconsistent alter ego, sometimes a clear mouthpiece (in tirades on today's sexual mores), sometimes a bit of a cartoon himself (in his self-proclaimed chauvinist-pigdom). And because Amis' shot-gun contempt--for illiterate students, bad cafeteria food, etc.--keeps pulling the whole book down to a level of unfocused tetchiness. The Amis prose glitters throughout as shark-toothily as ever, but the Amis bile isn't the geyser it once was-more like a leaky faucet. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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