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The Position: A Novel Hardcover – March 1, 2005

3.7 out of 5 stars 131 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Neurotic siblings and embarrassing parents are familiar (even required) elements of the literature of suburban nostalgia and malaise. Wolitzer (Surrender, Dorothy; The Wife) doesn't tamper with these basic ingredients in her latest novel, but she gives them a titillating twist. Paul and Roz Mellow are enthusiastically in love—so much so that in 1975 they write a how-to sex book, Pleasuring, that features illustrations of them in every imaginable position. The book becomes a runaway bestseller. When the children find the book and read it together, they're forever traumatized, in ways both serious and comedic. Flash forward 30 years: Paul and Roz are long divorced and remarried, and Paul, in particular, remains bitter; the grown children fumble through their lives on the eve of the publisher's reissue of the sex classic. The oldest, Holly, has settled into late motherhood after a lifetime of nomadic drug-taking; uptight Michael suffers from chronic depression; Dashiell, a gay Log Cabin Republican speechwriter, is diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease; and insecure late-bloomer Claudia returns to her Long Island hometown to finally figure out how to be a fully functioning adult. If the characters are rather stock, and the musings on love, sex and family familiar, Wolitzer nevertheless bestows her trademark warmth and light touch on this tale of social and domestic change.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

Wolitzer's novel of sexual politics and family farce continues in the dark comic vein that she mined in "The Wife." In the nineteenseventies, at the height of the sexual revolution, a married couple, aptly named Mellow, publish a liberated sex manual that features pictures of themselves and includes a sexual position—"Electric Forgiveness"—that they claim to have invented. The manual becomes an epochal best-seller. The publication, decades later, of a new edition of the notorious classic is a catalyst for a plot that examines the effects of this legacy on the adult children of the Mellows, who are now divorced. These effects are variously hilarious, disabling, painful, embarrassing, and, ultimately, empowering. Wolitzer's comic timing never wavers, and she has an astute grasp of the way one generation's liberation inspires the next generation's pity.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (March 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074326178X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743261784
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (131 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,765,231 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. A Magill VINE VOICE on March 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Meg Wolitzer's novel, "The Position" includes a plot so richly layered and interesting, on can doubt that it consists of this novelist's best work to date. "The Position" revolves around the family of the Mellows, suburbanites who, in the middle of the 70's, write a sex manual where they serve as the models for the paintings. While the manual takes off, making the family wealthy and the parents famous, at home things change. One evening the Mellows four children, ages 7-15 find and read the manual. This moment turns into the seminal moment of their lives, the one which changes everything.

After this initial event, the novel picks up in the present day, examining how the aftershocks of that day continue to reverberate in the each family member's life. Deftly using rotating perspective, Wolitzer shows us the family from each member's perspective. She also takes the opportunity to cover a great many modern subjects, from internet startups, to Viagra, to the war of Iraq, dealing with each in an interesting and engaging manner.

To her credit, Wolitzer's characters never turn trite, and while the occasional clichés creep in here and there, this draw back does very little to lessen the novel's engaging flow. To a certain degree the author returns to the subject of her previous novel "The Wife," particularly as it relates to a wife who is misunderstood and whose depth is underappreciated by her spouse. This novel, however, benefits from deeper characters and also for Wolitzer's use of humor, something that previous work lacked. Indeed, more than a few scenes here provoke a hearty chuckle.

Over all, readers will enjoy this work and be converted to Wolitzer fan's in the process. I have little doubt that, come the summer reading season, a paperback addition will find a welcome place in many a beach bag.
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Format: Hardcover
Michael Mellow, age thirteen, discovers a book called PLEASURING (complete with realistic illustrations), which features his parents graphically enjoying their sexuality. He immediately shares his discovery with his siblings --- Claudia, Dashiell and Holly, ages six to fifteen.

PLEASURING becomes a national sensation, with Roz and Paul Mellow appearing on television, on the covers of magazines, and on lecture tours. The book makes the Mellows wealthy, but it also changes the family forever.

Michael reflects, "No one ever thought about how it felt to be Paul and Roz Mellow's children ... how it felt to have your parents display their bodies, their preferences, their most private selves."

Thirty years later, the parents (who divorced two years after PLEASURING was released) argue over whether or not to reissue the book. Roz recruits Michael to persuade his father to allow the anniversary edition, so Michael travels to Florida to talk to Paul. The trip becomes a prolonged respite from Michael's own life, which has focused lately on the sexually detrimental side effects of his antidepressant.

Meanwhile, the grown Dashiell finds an ominous lump in his neck. His illness gives him time to reflect yet again on the fact that his parents' book spoke slightingly of homosexuality --- a fact that continues to wound him in spite of his satisfying life with his partner, Tom, and his work with a senatorial campaign staff.

Holly, the Mellows' oldest child, has long left the family, first for a life of transience and drugs and later for marriage and motherhood. When she married, her primary emotion was relief at no longer bearing the name Mellow or having to hear, "You're not related to the sex book Mellows?
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The "position" refers to a unique sexual position, among many others, discovered by Paul and Roz Mellow and incorporated into their how-to sexual book published in the mid-1970s. One might imagine that the author intends to comment on the opening of American society to taboo subjects, but not so. Her focus is on the impacts and fragility of families. She follows all six members of the Mellow family beginning at the time of publication, and then leapfrogs forward by some 25 yrs with pertinent details of the intervening years being injected at propitious times. The premise seems to be that the discovery of their parent's book by the children, Holly, Michael, Dashiell, and Claudia, was a life transforming event. But that possibility really does not resonate compared to the impact that the divorce of Roz and Paul had on the Mellow children, sending them careening in all directions, with resolution taking years.

The book is concerned mostly with adjustments to life and self-discovery. In following each of the family members, the author offers often incisive commentary on coping with family, self-doubts, expectations, sexuality, modernity, etc. The new difficulties introduced into their lives that must be dealt with are the pending reissue of the how-to sex book and the discovery of Hodgkin's disease in Dashiell.

As has been noted by others, the book is not a taut examination of a situation or a life. It is mostly shifting commentary on members of a family, as they have gone their separate ways, who are somewhat forced, either through circumstances or guilt, to maintain some connection. The author does not leave most of the characters adrift; she suggests that the resolution of difficulties is possible for those open to possibilities. An interesting read.
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