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Menage Paperback – May 15, 2012

2.8 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Shulman twirled into the book world with a witty and revolutionary feminist novel, Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen (1972), and eventually wrote actual memoirs, including To Love What Is: A Marriage Transformed (2008). Now, in a delectably mischievous return to fiction, she detonates our brittle assumptions about marriage and creativity. Powerful, rich, bossy Mack meets the celebrated yet destitute émigré writer Zoltan in Los Angeles and, feeling guilty about leaving his wife, Heather, home alone so much, spontaneously invites Zoltan to come live at their New Jersey mansion. He expects dark, handsome, hungry Zoltan (of the molten eyes and chronic writer’s block) to produce a masterpiece while also providing literary companionship for brainy, beautiful, well-read Heather, who keeps an impeccable home, writes an environmental column, and dreams of becoming a novelist. What sort of husband takes such a risk? Saucy Shulman orchestrates a brilliantly wry and entertaining comedy of desires as the, by turns, dire and hilarious dynamics of this “odd ménage” heat up and illuminate the cracks in our fantasies about wealth, fame, sex, and art. --Donna Seaman


“‘Careful what you wish for’ might be the subtext of Alix Kates Shulman’s witty and delightful new novel about three misguided people who may or may not have learned a lesson from this old adage but no doubt the discerning reader will.” —Lily Tuck, author of I Married You for Happiness

“The voice that has for three decades provided a lyrical narrative of the changing position of women in American society.” —New York Times

"Alix Kates Shulman's many readers will be grateful to see her return to fiction in full force, with this delectable social satire that deftly and even-handedly skewers her three main characters.  Shulman's devilishly clever wit and uncommonly keen vision of marriage, ambition, and self-interest hurtling against each other make Ménage an altogether wonderful read.  I was sorry to reach the last page!" —Lynne Sharon Schwartz, author of The Writing on the Wall

"In this wise and witty novel, Shulman displays once again her astute understanding of the loaded relationships between males and females that earned her fame with her first novel, The Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen." —The Star Tribune

“The dynamics of the triangle in Ménage keep changing, but Alix Kates Shulman’s take on modern marriage is consistently inventive, witty and smart.” —Hilma Wolitzer, author of An Available Man

“A lighthearted read with an urbane twist; many readers will enjoy.” —Library Journal

“In a delectably mischievous return to fiction, [Shulman] detonates our brittle assumptions about marriage and creativity… Saucy Shulman orchestrates a brilliantly wry and entertaining comedy of desires…[the] hilarious dynamics of this ‘odd ménage’ heat up and illuminate the cracks in our fantasies about wealth, fame, sex, and art.” —Booklist

“A surprisingly tart little literary satire…Shulman is delightfully wicked.” —Kirkus Reviews

“An irreverent comedy about an affluent couple who, in a bid for cultural cachet, take in a dissident writer, only to have sex complicate everything.” —Karen Holt, O Magazine

“In this wry and delicious novel by the author of Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen, a couple in a boring marriage offer to share their lavish home with a celebrated but penniless writer…The trio is not a sexual threesome, but each individual lusts for something, and the household dynamic seethes with the raging needs of their egos…The characters are selfish and self-absorbed, but the sharp and entertaining satire that emerges from their comic triangle expertly skewers modern notions of marriage, celebrity and success.” —People Magazine

“It’s a sharp little satire, and it goes down quick like a stiff drink.” –Jessa Crispin, founder of Bookslut, Kirkus


Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Other Press; Original edition (May 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159051520X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590515204
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.9 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,882,964 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Alix attended public schools and planned to be a lawyer like her dad. But in college at Case Western Reserve University she was smitten by philosophy and upon graduation moved to New York City to study philosophy at Columbia grad school. After some years as an encyclopedia editor, she enrolled at New York University, where she took a degree in mathematics, and later, while raising two children, an MA in Humanities.

She became a civil rights activist in 1961 and a feminist activist in 1967, published her first book in 1970, and taught her first class in 1973--all lifelong pursuits that have found their way into her books.

Having explored in her novels the challenges of youth and midlife, in her memoirs she has probed the later stages in the ongoing drama of her generation of women, taking on the terrors and rewards of solitude, of her parents' final years, and of her late-life calling as caregiver to her beloved husband, with whom she lives in New York City.

She is the author of:

five novels:
Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen
Burning Questions
On the Stroll
In Every Woman's Life...

three memoirs:
Drinking the Rain
A Good Enough Daughter
To Love What Is: A Marriage Transformed

selected essays:
A Marriage Agreement and Other Essays: Four Decades of Feminist Writing

two books on the anarchist-feminist Emma Goldman:
To the Barricades (biography)
Red Emma Speaks (collection)

and three books for children:
Bosley on the Number Line
Awake and Asleep
Finders Keepers.

For more information, see AlixKShulman.com.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Zoltan Barbu, former dissident and dried-up writer who, in his better days, was lovingly reviewed by Susan Sontag, meets Allerton "Mack" McKay at the funeral of Maja Stern. Maja was Zoltan's lover before she committed suicide, an act that thwarted Mack's plan to seduce her. Mack and Zoltan go to dinner together and the confrontational Zoltan quickly exposes Mack's innermost secret: his fear that he is a fraud, an imposter undeserving of the success he has achieved. Hoping that Zoltan will show him "how to live honestly," Mack invites Zoltan, who is on the verge of homelessness, to live with him. Mack also believes that bringing home a writer will be "a major coup" in his ongoing struggle to impress his wife and improve his marriage. He hopes that Zoltan's presence will fill the void in his wife's life while he is gone from home.

Mack's wife Heather suspects Mack is having an affair with Maja ... or if not Maja, with someone. Heather's many resentments include her decision to quit her position as an assistant editor to become a stay-at-home mom (with the help of a nanny and maid), thus diminishing her power as Mack's increased. She wants to write but she can't summon the will to work. Heather initially welcomes the arrival of Zoltan (like the death of Maja) as a needed boost to revitalize her marriage, or her writing career, or at least her sex life. She quickly enough comes to regret Mack's decision to invite Zoltan into her house.

Zoltan's promise to teach Mack and Heather the secrets of life is arguably fulfilled by the novel's end, although not in ways that Mack and Heather anticipate. Therein lies the charm of this character-driven novel.
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Format: Paperback
In her newest novel Shulman deftly skewers New York literary society and the modern day affluent family. Mack McKay a newly made real estate mogul and his beautiful, would-be writer wife Heather (she writes a blog column and dreams of publishing her stories) live with their two young children in a magnificent home in the hills of New Jersey. The house is celebrated in architectural magazines. The McKays own fancy cars, a plane, fine art, cases and cases of expensive wines, piles of silver and crystal and Heather has accumulated an enviable library. Despite their wealth and the seemingly perfect life they are a tad bored. Heather suspects her husband of having an affair with a gorgeous, Hollywood casting director. She spends too many days alone in her palace on the hill tending to extravagant meals and her perfect children. Mack is bored as well. While attending the LA funeral of the casting director who has committed suicide, Mack encounters her erstwhile lover, the magnetic and mysterious dissident writer from Eastern Europe Zoltan Barbu. Zoltan is a bit of a has-been as a writer. He rests on the laurels of his first novel which was promoted by the likes of Susan Sontag. Not much in the way of writing has been forthcoming from him in years. Zoltan is definitely down on his luck now that his volatile mistress is dead. Mack finds Zoltan fascinating and thinks Heather will find him fascinating too. So like the fine wine and fancy cars Mack has accumulated, he 'accumulates' this famous writer too. A deal is struck. Zoltan will come to live with Mack and Heather in the palace on the hill, where in the midst of beauty he will have the time to write his next novel. For Mack and Heather, their bordeom will be cured by their newly ensconced houseguest. What happens to this explosive menage brings a fascinating and delicious look at New York literary society and the affluent who worships it.
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Format: Paperback
What a solidly good writer Alix Kates Shulman is. I don't really care about impossibly rich people and the quandaries of their lives -- however, her insight into modern marriage and the compromises still being made by women and men to live out their dreams was impeccable.

I don't really think either of the main characters are people I'd like to spend time with, so seriously flawed, wearing blinders to the needs of each other and imperfect!

Loved Zoltan Barbu. Was he a charlatan or a truly gifted person? Did he take advantage of others because his genius wouldn't allow him to even know how to be pragmatic? or was he a doing the best he could? Can an artist create on demand? Some seem to be able to others can't. Who is the real artist? Are those who can't taking advantage of the rest of us?

I was very surprised at the ending. Heather seems to be happy with her situation and Mack also. I really expected Heather to still be longing for the excitement and tension that occurred when Zoltan was around and to be desperate for it. Are they just well-balanced people who take the best that is around them and forget about the other things? Do they learn lessons and use them to make their day to day life more livable? Are they just normal people doing the best they can do?
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
"Mack is the impresario directing Zoltan the guru playing to Heather's acolyte." Each character has their own internal dialogue as to the meaning of this group. Zoltan has offered this couple the secret to living honestly in exchange for luxurious and debt free living. But honestly he would like to finish his book, and Mack enjoys the status of a resident writer and Heather rather thinks that Zoltan might be a present to make up for the solitude and loss of status as a housewife. Sneakily funny, this book makes a stealth attack into the stories people tell themselves. And oh yes, they are very wealthy, so the props are sensational. I always enjoy some great props.
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