The Slate Audio Book Club is one of my ipod vices (check out this older post if you’re interested in the rest of them). Their July 16th Podcast was on Thy Neighbor’s Wife by Gay Talese. It led me to THIS article in New York Magazine.
How the heck did I miss this book?! Granted I was working my way through Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski in 1981 when Thy Neighbor’s Wife was first published. And the book is an in depth look at the 1970’s sexual revolution. (Not something they offered in the Weekly Reader). Still, I would have expected the controversy it created to have lasted well into my college years. Talese used immersion journalism to do his research – working in a “happy ending” massage parlor, joining a nudist colony and participating in orgies – all with a wife & two children at home. During the 10 years it took him to write the book he was completely open about his research methods with both his wife and the press. You have to admit that’s a pretty gutsy move, judgments aside.
Thy Neighbor’s Wife was re-published this past April, which means finding it shouldn’t be too hard. Since it seems to have sold ridiculously well when it first came out a used copy shouldn’t be difficult to get your hands on either. I recommend reading it (despite never having read it myself) if only as a prologue to Talese’s next project.
He is currently at work on a book which will explore his 50 year marriage to Nan A. Talese. She is the legendary Random House editor and currently a Senior Vice President at Doubleday. She is also, in my mind, the real hero of this story. If Gay Talese is considered a radical because of his immersion into the sexual counter-culture while researching Thy Neighbor’s Wife, then how much more so is Nan Talese for staying with him through it? Not only staying with him, but doing so while maintaining a successful career and seemingly without compromising how she chose to live her own life. I can’t imagine a more fascinating couple.
There’s no word on the title, but this is one book that I will be following the press on. According to Talese’s website it is tentatively schedule to be released in the Fall, 2011. Again, here is the link to the New York Magazine article:
A Nonfiction Marriage by Jonathan Van Meter
And please keep watching this space for my eventual review of Thy Neighbor’s Wife.