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The Position: A Novel by Meg Wolitzer
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The Position: A Novel (original 2005; edition 2010)

by Meg Wolitzer (Author)

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4842033,856 (3.23)26
From the bestselling author of The Wife--Meg Wolitzer's "hilariously moving, sharply written novel" (USA TODAY), hailed by critics and loved by readers worldwide, with its "dead-on observations about sex, marriage, and the family ties that strangle and bind" (Cleveland Plain Dealer). Crackling with intelligence and humor, The Position is the masterful story of one extraordinary family at the hilarious height of the sexual revolution--and through the thirty-year hangover that followed. In 1975, Paul and Roz Mellow write a bestselling Joy of Sex-type book that mortifies their four school-aged children and ultimately changes the shape of the family forever. Thirty years later, as the now dispersed family members argue over whether to reissue the book, we follow the complicated lives of each of the grown children and their conflicts in love, work, marriage, parenting, and, of course, sex--all shadowed by the indelible specter of their highly sexualized parents. Insightful, panoramic, and compulsively readable, The Position is an American original.… (more)
Member:FinnFoot
Title:The Position: A Novel
Authors:Meg Wolitzer (Author)
Info:Scribner (2010), Edition: Reprint, 324 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
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The Position by Meg Wolitzer (2005)

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English (18)  French (1)  German (1)  All languages (20)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
This is my second Wolitzer novel and I think I'm a fan for life. So good. ( )
  Shaun_Hamill | Oct 10, 2019 |
This is one of those ‘ennui of modern American life as seen through one dysfunctional family’ novels that I normally avoid like the plague – and indeed, an early chapter featuring yet another melancholy genius worrying about his antidepressants and sexual hang-ups made me fear the worst. But I was strangely won round, mainly thanks to some smart narrative focus which helps keep things tight and under control.

Our main characters are the four children of Roz and Paul Mellow, a couple who achieved notoriety in the seventies by bringing out a Joy of Sex-style lovemaking manual, complete with explicit illustrations of themselves in various acrobatic positions; now, thirty years later, a re-issue is planned, which gives us an excuse to catch up on how their children have dealt with this weight of embarrassment, inspiration, anticipation and disillusion about sex as they've grown up to have their own relationships.

Inasmuch as this is a literary novel about sex, it's remarkably successful. The sex scenes themselves are probably the best bits, pleasingly diverse and realistic and crowded around with the participants' thoughts, anxieties, awkwardnesses. There are plenty of moments in here where you think, oh I've totally thought the same thing, I've never seen a novelist mention that before – or, even better, where Wolitzer makes you feel instant recognition for something that you haven't experienced in exactly that way yourself.

One night, when Roz and Paul were making love, she heard herself command Paul, Fuck me, and she realized that she'd forgotten that this was exactly what he was already doing; she'd been lost inside the act, and it was like listening to music and thinking, I'd like to listen to some music now, because you were so stimulated that you needed an influx of new stimulation, an overlay of something else. Bring on the next thing, you thought, come on, come on, make it snappy.

I said these scenes were realistic, but perhaps ‘plausible’ is a better word. The point is not exactly that you recognise everything as being true to life, but rather that the descriptions are so sharp and so free from cliché, and that what is being described is what is often passed over by other novelists. Verisimilitude is not always required for this to come off well. The man-on-man bits, for instance, sometimes seem more like how a female novelist might imagine gay sex than anything totally naturalistic – a character reminisces about

the wonderful rub of parts that even to this day reminded Dashiell of Boy Scouts, trying to make a fire with two sticks. You could feel boyish and scoutlike in bed.

I'm…pretty sure men don't have sex by rubbing their dicks together, but OK let's go with it. The lesbian encounters are also somewhat detached from reality, not least because they involve one of the lead actresses from Friends (or its fictional stand-in); this, thinks her partner blissfully,

is so amazingly aesthetic. That was the thing about two good-looking women having sex. At first you could almost die from the delicacy, from the long wrists, yoga-bred bodies, and subtle flashes of thin gold chain or ear-stud or pearl-gloss pedicure. Sex between two women now seemed to her like an exclusive club, and in order to join you would need to look like this, and admire yourself and the other person, and feel a great relief that no one else was allowed in.

Again, this is all very nicely written without necessarily being wholly convincing. And lots of other lines could be cited. The female body, in a sexual context, is described as ‘that banshee with its throat sounds and wet center and locked jaw and tree-dweller toes’ – that's weird but it works – and an over-attentive husband is slyly critiqued for approaching sex with his wife with

the kind of interest that men sometimes had in wines or stereo equipment or cars. How did they taste, sound, run? Which was the best one, and what was the best way to try it out?

Also nice to see how many of these scenes are written against the ‘accepted’ narrative of such things – a brilliantly-written moment of childhood sexual abuse, to take the most striking example, is presented as something irritating, strange, curious, but not something overwhelmingly damaging that is supposed to leave lifetime scars. At times like this Wolitzer judges the tone perfectly.

The problem with this book is that there is a fair amount of filler – something slightly rambling about the prose style, something a bit too taking-the-pencil-for-a-walk about many of the scenes, which are apt to digress into the sort of moody ruminations on modern life that you can read in a hundred other lit-fic paperbacks. The long, elaborative, multi-clause sentences that Wolitzer favours when she's looking for literary effect don't quite work for me; the novel's opening paragraph-sentence is a good example of what I mean:

The book was placed on a high shelf in the den, as though it were the only copy in the world and if the children didn't find it they would be forever unaware of the sexual lives of their parents, forever ignorant of the press of hot skin, the overlapping voices, the stir and scrape of the brass headboard as it lightly battered the plaster, creating twin finial-shaped depressions over the years in the wall of the bedroom in which the parents slept, or didn't sleep, depending on the night.

If that works for you then you'll definitely love this book; if you find it a little overwritten and creative-writing-course then you'll understand why I had some problems settling into the narrative voice. But complaining too much seems very unkind with a book like this, which is really a lot of fun and which convinced me that there was an underlying irony and wisdom holding things together; it's endearing, it's perceptive, it's well worth a go for any couples taking a break between ‘Riding St George’ and ‘Electric Forgiveness’. ( )
1 vote Widsith | Jan 4, 2016 |
Enjoyed this one but now donating as clearing bookshelves for move. ( )
  anissaannalise | Jan 1, 2014 |
It was okay. The characters are kind of interesting, the writing is pretty good, but the plot is just not...there. There was nothing to keep me turning pages other than the length of the airplane trip before me. If I'd had another book, I likely would have stopped reading this one, but as I continued it grew on me. Can't really recommend it, though ( )
  mazeway | Oct 16, 2013 |
An interesting premise - fifteen years into their marriage, Roz and Paul create a book called "Pleasuring" about the pleasures partners can give one another in bed. It's complete with artful illustrations of the barely disguised couple in innumerable sexual positions, including one they invented. The book becomes a smash hit. The novel then follows the lives of their four children, forming intertwining character studies. Each of these children develop distinctly different personalities, and one can see how their development is consistent with their childhood personalities. The end, however, drifts away and is a bit disappointing. ( )
  bookfest | Oct 1, 2013 |
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Meg Wolitzerprimary authorall editionscalculated
NASALIK, MadeleineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Das Buch stand im Fernsehzimmer, oben im Bücherregal, ganz so, als wäre es das einzige Exemplar der Welt und als würde den Kindern, wenn sie es da nicht fanden, auf ewig unbewusst bleiben, dass ihre Eltern sexuelle Wesen waren.
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