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Thy Neighbor's Wife Paperback – April 14, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


“Every man who reads it will recognize himself. Every woman will discover, perhaps for the first time, the secret fantasies and public privations, the loneliness and passionate lusts, of most men.” (Chicago Sun-Times)

“A sexual Pilgrim’s Progress...Few writers have lived so long, traveled so far, on the frontiers of the sexual revolution.” (Atlantic Monthly)

“Talese does not proselytize, he informs...Readable and thoroughly entertaining.” (Vogue)

From the Inside Flap

"Engrossing and provocative." Library Journal

Bestselling author Gay Talese's exploration into the hidden and changing sex lives of Americans from all walks of life shocked the world when it was first published in 1981. Now considered a classic, this fascinating personal oddysey and revealing public reflection on American sexuality changed the way Americans looked at themselves and one another. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Updated edition (April 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061665436
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061665431
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #74,856 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 68 people found the following review helpful By F. Orion Pozo on February 23, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Gay Talese spent the 1970s studying the Sexual Revolution in the USA. He was no detached scientific observer in a white lab coat like Masters and Johnson. He threw himself into his work with enthusiasm. He lived the life he studied and the results of his work are in this book. But this is not just one man's report from the sexual frontier. As a disciplined reporter, he conducted countless interviews, but as a participant he was able to obtain trusting relationships. This is not Sociology; he reports on the people making money from the Sexual Revolution and their customers. It is primarily a book about men using women's sexuality to make money from other men.
This is not an exhaustive history but rather a look at selective people and their impact on the times. John and Barbara Williamson's Sandstone Retreat, a sexually open community in the hills near Los Angeles, is one group that Talese focuses on. Through interviews with many of the participants he explores the effects polyamory (openly maintaining multiple sexual relationships) has on the couples who belong to this group.
A large portion of the book examines the publishing pioneers who, after World War II, risked fines and jail to sell erotic books and magazines in the US. The Post Office laws against sending sexual materials through the mail was the core legal restraint in the US and Anthony Comstock was the chief enforcer of this law. Some of Comstock's more famous exploits are recounted. Talese also reports on the Supreme Court, its decisions, the Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, and the Nixon White House's response to the loosening sexual climate. Hugh Hefner, one of the most famous people in sexual publishing, is also studied in some detail.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Andrew C Wheeler VINE VOICE on December 5, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is the great smutty book of the baby-boom Seventies, one of the cornerstones of the mythology of the Me Decade and a major work in the canon of the New Journalism -- the exemplar of several things at once and tremendously popular and influential for many years. Coming to it thirty years later, though, the reader is struck by how diffuse it is, lacking a real through-line or conclusion. Perhaps there could never have been a conclusion to a book that was so thoroughly "the way we live now" -- we all did not stop living in 1980, and the way we lived kept changing, as it always does -- but Talese doesn't even make an attempt to sum the book up, just drags himself into the last chapter to explain what he wanted to do, or thought he was going to do, before bowing out quietly.

Thy Neighbor's Wife only explains itself in that last chapter, with Talese taking the reader on a whirlwind tour of all of the books that Thy Neighbor's Wife didn't become -- a consumer guide to massage parlors, Talese's own sexual autobiography, an in-depth look at the Sandstone Retreat, an examination of the intersection of nudism and sex -- before ending suddenly. Before that, it ran through twenty-five chapters, each one on a discrete topic, only slightly connected to the chapters before and after -- though he did circle back to a few topics: Sandstone, Hugh Hefner, and the place of Chicago in America's libido. Talese begins with a photo of Diane Webber (the model immortalized on the cover of the 2009 paperback edition) to tell the story of the late adolescence of a Chicago teen, Harold Rubin, who then disappears for several hundred pages.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By doktordrew on January 12, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Gay Talese does a brilliant job of narrating the evolution of sexuality during the 20th century. By thoroughly including all the movers and shakers in the development of censorship legislation, sex shops, massage parlors, communes and sexual revolutionists in enthralling detail, Talese manages to create a riveting tale of human sexuality. By infiltrating the sexual revolution of the 60's and 70's, Talese offers first-hand accounts. He artfully balances his keen observations as a slightly removed journalist with indulgent, self-purposeful experimentation, then masterfully conveys his findings to his audience. Like "Honor Thy Father", Talese invests a great deal of time and risk in researching his material and the result is a page-turner. While he tends to mention numerous names of people who shaped 20th century sexuality, the result is not overwhelming but instead may inspire you to keep a list of names as you read through the book with the intention of researching these people yourself. Indeed, this masterpiece flows with gripping narrative style, introducing characters that seemingly have no relationship to one another, until you read further and find that their influence is intricately commingled. This book will fascinate you with its exploration and understanding of American sexual identity. A must read!
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Robert S. Clay Jr. on February 1, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Depending on your outlook, author Gay Talese's rambling social history of sex in America is either X-rated titillation or scholarly and objective reporting of a serious subject that affects virtually everyone. The author takes the reader through a maze of people and events from the triumphs and tribulations of Hugh Hefner to pornography and the courts, from free-love religious sects of the 19th century to 20th century California communes. The reader also visits massage parlors and organized mate swapping clubs. The premise is that everybody behaves sexually, regardless. Pretending otherwise is a myth perpetuated by the oppressive cycle of American Puritanism handed down by a variety of parental, religious, and legal authorities. We should just accept our sexuality and be honest with each other, and especially with ourselves. Although the author refrains from preaching a "if it feels good, do it" sermon, complete sexual freedom is the rather trite theme. This viewpoint is somewhat dated and reflects the so-called sexual revolution of the '60s and early '70s. The book was published in 1980 before the AIDs threat was a common concern. Some hot button issues as abortion and homosexuality are ignored. Nevertheless, it is an interesting book on a controversial subject. ;-)
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