Adultery /

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Main Author: DeSalvo, Louise A., 1942-
Format: Book
Published:Boston : Beacon Press, c1999.
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Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In a tart and entertaining treatise on adultery, Hunter College professor DeSalvo (Writing as a Way of Healing) offers sometimes dueling perspectives based on personal experience and objective curiosity. Fueled by the memory of her husband's infidelity during the early years of their marriage and by her own indiscretions with respect to former boyfriends, the author seeks to examine why people cheat and why they then love to talk and write about their perfidy. Written in a breezy, stream-of-consciousness style, the book is more than a social critique. It also serves as a portrait of a marriage that has survived adultery, as a memoir of growing up under the threat of a father's violent outbursts and as an exploration of adultery's prominence in literature, from Dante's Divine Comedy to the Kinsey report. DeSalvo leaps from her husband to Colette, from minor anecdotes to major hypotheses, without sacrificing clarity or sincerity. The work is tied together by literature just as, DeSalvo speculates, adultery binds its participants through the process of storytelling. She stirs the still-smoldering embers of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair as proof that Americans love a good storyÄand all the more if it involves sexual indiscretion. In attempting to map the "uncharted and often unpredictable emotional terrain" of adultery, she provides an intelligent and thought-provoking inquiry into why sexual infidelity will always fascinate us. Agent, Geri Thoma, Elaine Markson Literary Agency. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review

As the nation emerges from its obsession with the Monica Lewinsky affair, DeSalvo reflects on adultery's positive and negative effects on marriage. Given her obvious narrative and literary drive, her academic interests, and her personal history, DeSalvo (Writing as a Way of Healing, 1999; Breathless: An Asthma Journal, 1997) seems destined to have written a book on adultery. An advocate of creative writing as a means of recovering from trauma, a memoirist, a Virginia Woolf scholar, and a wife whose husband, Ernie, committed adultery in the days following the birth of their first child, DeSalvo brings the right stuff to her latest book. Adultery is more of an extended essay on the subject, from the perspective of literature and from personal experience. Literary examples of how adultery drives both an author's relationships and writing dominate the book's beginning'with ample but not especially revealing references to Virginia Woolf, Henry James, Edith Wharton, and D. H. Lawrence. Soon the tone turns chatty and intimate, with breathy passages like this: ``You feel caged. You feel suffocated. You need to find a way to get out of this cage. Soon. Now . . . '' Shifting from one story to another, DeSalvo fleshes out her different perspectives on adultery'her childhood fantasies of her grandfather's mysterious solo trips back to Italy, her own adolescent form of adultery, and her husband's adultery. By the book's end, the source of DeSalvo's irrepressible enthusiasm for the subject grows clearer. Rather than remain bitter'forever a victim of another's transgression'she performs a Hegelian twist and turns her husband's adultery into a positive growth experience for herself. With decades of hindsight, DeSalvo concludes that Ernie's affair was in part exhilarating and liberating for her, allowing her to think about herself and her life in a fresher and more meaningful way. A compassionate and level-headed book. Given DeSalvo's unbending belief that adultery is the critical experience in many people's lives, it might resonate most with those who have a personal stake in the subject.

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