Monday, November 9, 2009

Seth Meyers - Novel Deftly Explores the Sexual Mechanisms Men Use to Cope With Romantic Loss

There aren't many interesting books about the male experience - this appears to be one of the few exceptions.

Novel Deftly Explores the Sexual Mechanisms Men Use to Cope With Romantic Loss

Do Women Truly Want a Window Into Male Sexuality?

On occasion, after I read a book, I feel compelled to write about it. This happened after I read the new novel "This Is Where I Leave You," by New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Tropper. What a punch this novel packs, replete with betrayal, death, and male existential crises. Specifically, the plot deals with the travails of the protagonist, whose wife falls in love with another man, and tracks the downward spiral that ensures.

Few novels capture so accurately how the loss of a woman's love is often accompanied by the battling forces of possession and sexual fantasy. Torn apart by betrayal, and living alone after the separation, we read about the main character's epiphanies and the emotions triggered, by the loss, which he manages by means of rabid masturbation and elaborate fantasies of reconnecting sexually with his ex-wife. It seems that it's not an emotional reconnection that he seeks, but rather the ability to once again possess her sexually.

"This Is Where I Leave You" is a sexual and emotional tour-de-force that many readers will connect with. I admit that initially what drew me to the book was its title. I find that I seek out melancholia in fiction and film, perhaps because it tends to mingle so many layers of emotion. The title, in fact, reminds me of another favorite book (and title) of mine: Joyce Carol Oates' "Because It Is Bitter and Because It Is My Heart." I'm not sure a better title has ever been crafted. But clearly she can do more than construct a solid title: Reading Oasts' work inspired me to do something I've never done before or since: As a teenager, when I read her book "Wonderland," I wrote her a letter with a few questions about the characters' intentions. She never responded, but the point remains: She conjures characters and situations that are easy to become invested in.

I don't plan to write to the author of "This Is Where I Leave You," though that's not to say he didn't leave me with questions. However, one of the questions I have is for the readers for TIWILY. I wonder if this is a book that only men would enjoy, since Tropper so artfully probes the male psyche, or if women would appreciate the book as well.

My guess is that men would like this book more than women, because Tropper draws such a vivid and relatable portrait of male sexuality -- a portrait women might not feel they've benefited from seeing the details of. Regardless, this book is so well-written and funny that I recommend you pick a copy up and give it a try. I enjoyed it immensely and hope you do, too.

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