Lust in Translation: Infidelity from Tokyo to Tennessee

I read a small blurb about this book when it was first published in hardcover and for whatever reason, I actually marked down the date that it would come out in paperback so I could be sure to get it and read it. Whatever the driving force for acquiring the book, I've been reading it off and on (mostly off) since April... To the point where the book has a rather noticeable pen shaped bulge dividing the book almost in half where my pen rested for most of the three months that it sat on my bookshelf under a couple of other books.

That being said, it's a rather quick read (when you are actually reading it) and Druckerman's fairly genial tone that speeds you through. She keeps a brisk pace and doesn't involve herself in the topic beyond certain amusing interactions with the interviewees (like when she's slightly miffed that one Lothario has ruled her out as one of his potential wives based on age and weight)... And what's she's come up with is an interesting, slightly detached look at infidelity in various countries and cultures.

Now, you have to keep in mind that given the subject matter, the people she's speaking to are people whose lives have probably been affected by infidelity... People who are engaged in affairs, have been engaged in affairs, dealt with a significant other's affair, have multiple wives, keep mistresses, are mistresses, enjoy occasional flings, encourage occasional flings, are gigolos, visit prostitutes, are prostitutes (either full or part time), run support groups for infidelity, are private detectives specializing in proving infidelity, are people employed to put an end to a spouse's infidelity, or study any or all of these items above. Given this litany of interviews, you start feeling like everyone is cheating on everyone -- or at least most of the world is. The people who were the worst at dealing with it were, unsurprisingly, the Americans. In one horror couple, the husband made the wife recount every meeting, every message exchanged, every look... And will demand this recount on a frequent basis... And years later, still hadn't gotten over it while his wife lived in constant terror and regret. These folks seemed like great candidates for divorce IMHO. Some marriages aren't worth saving and I think God would agree on that one.

It's a relatively fascinating topic, particularly because this dealt with it in a rather sterile, conceptual form. There were few accounts like the American psychos. Most people didn't have multiple wives or sleep with new people every night. Lots of these people had an affair every now and again (or had one or two in their lives), and no one (again, except Americans) talked about how they were worried for their immortal souls as a result. No one seemed to think twice about an omnipotent God being aware of their every move... Most people were just hoping their families didn't know and that their spouse was kept in the dark, thus shielded from harm. Whether or not they were shielded from harm is debatable, but really, most people in this book weren't necessarily bad people... Though I suppose that's debatable too, isn't it?

In any case, I'm glad that I read the book and I think Druckerman did a fine job with it. With limited (reliable) data on infidelity, she provided thought-provoking portraits of individuals in different cultures that might be somewhat stereotyping, but she was careful to try and keep discussion balanced. But yeah... You do kind of wonder, after reading a book like this, if human beings were ever meant to be faithful and if we're doing ourselves any favors by strictly adhering to such a plan.

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