For your consideration, a compilation of book reviews having to do with women, marriage and relationships from the New York Review of Books by the essayist and novelist Diane Johnson. Here’s her introduction and experiential resume
This reviewer should probably disclose at once that there is much in the day-to-day concerns of the mate-seeking world of today completely outside her experience, which is that of someone who has been married since her teens, and has many children and zero experience of relationship coaches, Internet matchmaking, speed dating, or the worlds of office work, therapy, singles bars, and biological clocks that are the new realities. I even took the very college course (required for incoming freshmen) with the very professor derided by Betty Friedan in The Feminine Mystique and mentioned here by Elizabeth Gilbert as epitomizing the era of unreconstructed females on the cusp of risen consciousness. (Of the class, “Marriage and the Family,” I remember only that when our group of inexperienced teenagers expressed reservations about male anatomy, Dr. Henry Bowman reassured us that, among other things, the penis was actually a lot cleaner than the vagina, being so much more often exposed to soap.)
I like her already. Below are the books she includes in her review. One interesting piece of information included in the Essay. Were you aware that by the time we are forty, 84 percent of American women have been married, a higher percentage than in other Western nations; and more than half (54 percent) of marriages will have broken up within fifteen years. And now on with the discussion of manners, marriage and relationships.
Marriage and Other Acts of Charity
by Kate Braestrup
Little, Brown, 217 pp., $24.99
The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today
by Andrew J. Cherlin
Vintage, 288 pp., $16.00
Why Him? Why Her? How to Find and Keep Lasting Love
by Helen Fisher
Holt, 305 pp., $15.00 (paper)
Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage
by Elizabeth Gilbert
Viking, 285 pp., $26.95
Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough
by Lori Gottlieb
Dutton, 322 pp., $25.95
First, some statistics to frame the discussion. Marriage is a “public, formal, lifelong commitment to share your life with another person,” as Andrew J. Cherlin defines it in The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today. In the American view, marriage remains the ideal state: only 10 percent of Americans endorse the idea that the institution is outdated, compared to, say, in France, where a third of people think it is. On the contrary, America is seeing a sort of Marriage Renaissance, the impetus for which comes in part from the gay marriage movement, which in itself reflects our reverence for weddings. All the usual explanations for the marrying nature of Americans seem good enough: marriage is seen as a haven in a rough world, an antidote to rootless anomie unneeded by people in smaller, more comfortable societies, and it developed in response to other historical factors including patterns of life and religion in Colonial America and on the frontier. Cherlin also says that marriage is not an innate biological impulse but a socially determined convenience for raising children.
And for the remaining discussion click here. For a website of Literary merit I recommend Arts and Letters Daily., which was where I came upon this essay.