Wednesday, May 18, 2011


The Position, Meg Wolitzer, Scribner, 2005, 307 pp

 Though this is her seventh novel, it is the first I have read by Meg Wolitzer. She is about ten years younger than me, so not the next generation but somewhere in between. The Position is marketed as humorous. I found it to be an attempt at irony but ultimately a sad story.

  Paul and Roz Mellow, very much in love, deeply passionate, and in the process of raising four children, conceive of an idea. The result is a book called Pleasuring: One Couple's Journey to Fulfillment, complete with artist renderings of the couple having sex in a cornucopia of Tantric positions. They also invented a position of their own, recommended to couples who have just had a fight.

 So imagine you are somewhere between six and fifteen, it is the seventies and your parents are in a bestselling book having sex; they are giving talks, appearing on TV, and have somewhat left you and your three siblings on your own. You all sit down together and look at the book.

 Right. So this novel is the story of how their book affected the kids and what it did to the Mellows' marriage.

 I am not quite sure I buy it but then I was one of those crazy sexual revolution type parents, as was my first husband. We were very open about sex, about our marriage and about all the other excesses of the decade. We got divorced when our sons were in grade school. Said sons are now happily married, heterosexual, have children and fulfilling jobs. They don't seem to have suffered more than I did growing up, just differently. But what do I know?

 The novel is entertaining. Meg Wolitzer doesn't glamorize her characters or come on as an alarmist. Her perceptiveness about women, men and children is her best quality, along with a certain humanist urge to find the best in people. We all spend our lives getting over our parents and The Position is one version of that tale.

 I plan to read another Wolitzer novel, The Ten Year Nap, and then her latest which I will be reviewing "professionally." If I sound tentative it is because I am undecided about the author. If I got to sit with Meg and a bottle of wine, I have a feeling we would find many viewpoints in common. It is just that I like women novelists who write about the female experience to be better writers. Margaret Atwood is my gold standard and I have a list of others. I am not ready to add Meg Wolitzer to that list.


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