Friday, May 27, 2011

The Uncoupling, by Meg Woliter

Dory and Robby Lang are English teachers at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Stellar Plains, New Jersey, where their daughter Willa is a sophomore. The Langs, though married for more than 15 years, still have a rollicking sex life--until a cold wind carrying a spell wraps itself around Dory one night, effectively killing her interest in sex within minutes.

As the Lang's marriage suffers in the new no-sex regime (Robby tries various ridiculous strategies for reviving Dory's interest, including a sex-related board game, a shared candle-lit bath, and snuggling under a "Cumfy" two-person blanket/wrap), their daughter is discovering her sexuality with Eli, the son of the new drama teacher who lives down the street from the Langs.

Meanwhile, the drama teacher is preparing to stage Lysistrata at Elro High--Lysistrata is the Greek comedy in which the women stage a sex strike as an anti-war protest. The parallels between the play and the spell sweeping through the women of Stellar Plains start to seem more than coincidental--even Willa is eventually affected, breaking Eli's heart. Events reach a humorous climax at the performance of Lysistrata.

The Uncoupling is an amusing book--despite not being a fan of "magical realism," I enjoyed reading it. Unfortunately, however, while Wolitzer makes various pronouncements about sexuality, marriage, gender differences, and aging, none of them are enlightening. So read The Uncoupling for fun--but not to learn anything about relationships.

Favorite passage:
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. The bright points of silver. The butter in its oblong dish. The corpse of a chocolate cake. The leaning back on a chair at the end, slugged on the head and overcome.

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