Picks and Pans Review: Thy Neighbor's Wife

updated 05/12/1980 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/12/1980 01:00AM

by Gay Talese

This much-publicized book about sex is, in fact, mostly about how sex went public in America. No dry, Kinseyan polls for this reporter. Talese prefers to detail the relaxation of censorship dating from the publication of Ulysses and Lady Chatterley's Lover, the rise of nudism and sex clubs such as California's Sandstone Retreat, and the creation of Playboy, Screw and the hardcore movie Deep Throat. The book concludes with the author writing about his own sex adventures—or, rather, research—in the third person: "Talese traveled to Chicago, where in time he met and befriended a massage parlor proprietor on South Wabash Avenue named Harold Rubin." At the close of each chapter, a new character and plot are introduced, soap-opera fashion, to keep the reader hooked. The endings generally are happy: Talese is unaccountably kind to pornographers, pimps, prostitutes and their Johns. He treats each as if he or she had made a significant contribution to society. There's no hint of how Talese feels about them, and so from the beginning the reader drifts in a stormy sea without compass, rudder or captain. (Doubleday, $14.95)

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