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Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage Paperback – February 10, 2009
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About the Author
Jenny holds both her Bachelor’s and her Master’s in English from Virginia Commonwealth University, where she taught composition for nearly ten years. She has also taught at the University of Richmond and Strayer University, as well as lectured at academic conferences across the country. Jenny has written numerous academic ancillaries for the Newsweek Education Program, Addison Wesley Longman, and Simon and Schuster.
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Book review of Open, by Jenny Block, 2008
I’m just about on the last page of this book and I just had to stop and rave about the courage and audacity of Jenny Block’s 2008 memoir Open. Those are the two words her husband uses. And, I have to agree.
Her tale is about how a pretty much All American woman frustrated by the mis-matched libido in her marriage, looks back at her evolving self sexually from puberty forward and lands on peace and happiness. In a strange land. An open marriage with a girlfriend off site and a smiling husband and daughter at home; with a lot of cheating and lying and tears before her destination. In the long run she makes things work by saying “No” to serial monogamy and divorcing her husband. She seeks intimacy “outside” her marriage and ends up enriching their marital bond. Yes. Cheat some; learn some. Talk. Redefine “outside”. Make the circle a bit bigger. My, my. It worked.
She pulls that old Socrates quote out at a key point in her story. Yes, he was on trial for the capital crime of teaching youth to think for themselves rather than just do what everyone else is doing: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” This was the courage Block and Socrates shared in common. By opening up to quell her need for intimacy in a decade plus marriage that was going flat, she ends up a hero for many.
The big take away for me with this book is that the reader is half way into this memoir before the author even uses the mid 90s term “poly”; which is a word all the rage now in sex, love and relationship theory among young people. I’ve read the four books: Polyamory--The New Love Without Limits, Secrets of Sustainable Intimate Relationships, Deborah Anapol's 1997 two decade old work; Tristan Taormino’s Opening Up in 2008; Franklin Veaux’s and Eve Rickert’s: More Than Two in 2014; and Veaux’s memoir, The Game Changer, 2015. These are the books you’re supposed to read on this growing field. And yet I have to say that I like the 2009 innocence Block employs around steering clear of all the linguistic permutations and titles and arrangements that pontificating poly theorists write about these days on this question to open or not. Jenny just tells her story. It’s that basic. She simply writes about her struggle as a young woman who was gifted (cursed?) with a strong libido. She writes what for her did and didn’t work from puberty forward and then ultimately what worked in her marriage when things were going stale. And it is a happy tale at the end, thankfully.
A negative on the book for me has nothing to do with the author or her writing skills which are top notch. The story ends on a statistically improbability for most of us as she and her husband find happiness with their “unicorn”. Yes; a bi woman finds a bi girlfriend and husband is' a happy observer and partaker. Nice. Which, of course, avoids 90% of the bumps in the poly road for 95% of those asking the Open question.
And yet the work is helpful. Ironic even. Odd. That an author named “Block” would help others unblock what Esther Perel addresses in her wildly successful Mating in Captivity book and TedTalk on desire with its 10M views. Ten million views! All surrounding one simple kone addressed by Block and Perel: How can you want what you already have? After the first decade or so of marriage that's the question many are now asking. Just how does a couple making their way on the cattle drive of married love stay happily desirous together and therefore avoid the need to change horses before the end of the line?
Endearing at the end is husband Christopher’s afterword. He speaks briefly there, commending his wife Jenny on her courage and audacity to attempt to tell their tale with this book. He confirms what many still refuse to believe, that he could love his wife even more now after their “experiment” of opening began.
Unicorn or no, I’d recommend this book even for those knowing the triad ideal is improbable for them. Why? Because of the honest search she goes on throughout the work. Because that’s what all share who are asking the questions she’s asking here. Yes, I’d recommend the book.