The Position - Meg Wolitzer

In 1975, Roz and Paul Mellow wrote a sex book which became a big hit. Their four children find a copy of the book and are forever changed, both by the sudden discovery of sex, but particularly by the illustrations of their own parents in various positions, and the knowledge that others have seen these pictures as well.

Jump ahead to 2005, and we find the family scattered apart: Holly, the oldest, is now in Los Angeles and barely speaks to any of the Mellows. Michael is a computer genius but his depression makes him unfit for work; his antidepressants make him unfit in bed. Dashiell is a Log Cabin Republican undergoing treatment for cancer, but everyone assumes he has AIDS because he's gay. Claudia, the youngest, never quite grew up and is sort of a vague, unmoored person. And Paul and Roz, who revolutionized sex in the 70s? They're divorced and both remarried. Roz wants to re-issue the book in a 30th anniversary edition, but Paul doesn't want to give her the satisfaction, the attention that it will bring.

The book doesn't really have a plot so much as a collection of scenes that reveal the characters. Wolitzer's characters are very human, and most of the chapters focus on one of the Mellows, jumping freely between 1975 and 2005, tracing the initial impact of the book on their lives. Of course there's sex, but it's not movie-star sex; people have hang-ups and problems, and they don't know how to talk about them.

It reminded me a little of The Amateur Marriage, partly because of the way it's more character-based than plot-based, but also because of the overall tone of dysfunction that hangs over both. As I said before, happy, well-adjusted people don't make for good entertainment. Still, it's nice every so often to read a book where good things happen, at least in the end.

Fed to jonathan's brain | October 03, 2005 | Comments (0)


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