Thy Neighbor's Wife
Harper, Apr 2009, $14.99
This is a reprint with some updating of Gay Talese's 1981 report on sexual activities in America. In some ways the book feels historical as it was published prior to the AIDs epidemic whose impact may have changed the openness that was increasing. Mr. Talese escorts (pun intended) his audience to famous hot spots like the Sandstone Retreat, the Playboy Mansion, and others. Much of the sexual revolution is a simple awareness led by magazines like Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler, etc.; some comes from movies. Mr. Talese looks closely at Supreme Court decisions such as the I Am Curious Yellow (a boring Swedish import) case and the Comstack Laws forbidding pornography transmitted through the mail. The reporter takes a lesser look at sexual freedom before WW II and the 1960s with the effect of the pill freeing women to have multiple partners if desired, but fails to dig deep at this major revelation. Though also brief, Mr. Talese takes a glimpse at the beginnings of coming out of the closet by homosexuals. Filled with interviews and a glossary, THY NEIGHBOR’S WIFE remains a fascinating but narrow look at mostly male heterosexual preferences predominantly between the 1950s and 1970s.