Wednesday, October 31, 2007
The Position by Meg Wolitzer
Typically I don't discuss sex on this blog. But I thought I could make an exception for this novel. I heard about it on NPR a year or so ago and it sounded fascinating.
The basic premise is that four children (ages 15 through 6) discover that their parents have written a sex book. And not just any sex book, one with pen and ink illustrations of the parents in the various positions. The book they've written becomes a runaway bestseller. The novel follows their lives and how each child deals with the knowledge and the notoriety.
In an interview I heard, the author, Meg Wolitzer, remembered coming across "The Joy of Sex" book. She wondered if the couples in that book had children - and if so, how their children would react to that book. The Position was born.
What's poignant about the novel for me is the attitude of the parents before the children discover the book. The parents are so in love with one another - and it's the sixties - people are throwing off the shackles of societal disapproval. They don't want to keep their book wrapped in boxes in the basement - labeled as kitchen misc.
But it's not that simple. Throughout the novel, each child attempts to reconcile themselves with the knowledge of their parents. Later, we find out that there were protests in the childrens' suburb against the book. The parents really didn't think about what it would mean for their parents, their children, their childrens' teachers, everyone to read that book and look at the drawings.
And in truth, I think I can speak for many of us by saying, we just don't want to know. There are some places we just don't want to go. I do want to have a healthy attitude about sex, and things have certainly changed since the earlier decades of the twentieth century.
But there are still some things most kids don't want to know. They don't want to talk or think about their parents having sex. I think this may be unique to American society - I don't know. I do think everyone recognizes that sex how babies are made (apologies to my readers if that's a news flash) and therefore some parents somewhere had to do "it" for them to exist.
Perhaps I'm just a bit odd - I really am fascinated with the kinds of things in our society that make us uncomfortable. Questioning precisely why something makes us uncomfortable. And it's also fascinating that while one person reacts in one way, another (even from the same family) reacts completely differently. And while a person may have the best of intentions, sometimes things get complicated very quickly.
PS. For the record, I would not necessarily recommend this book to my own parents or my in laws. For me, my attitude is a little it was toward the movie "The Secretary" that came out a few years ago. I would read it (watch it) and recommend it at your own risk, since there is definitely sexual content within the book. It really depends on how comfortable a person is reading and discussing sex and its relationship to the family unit.