Lust in Translation

30. Lust in Translation: The Rules of Infidelity from Tokyo to Tennessee by Pamela Druckerman (The Penguin Press, 2007).

Finished this at lunch the other day. This book is just completely fascinating. I read the hardcover because it passed my desk while looking a publisher returns, but it’s just come out in paperback. Basically, Druckerman looks at how infidelity is regarded in various countries and religions. She doesn’t draw any prescriptive conclusions, in the sense that she thinks that Americans should do things differently, as though it would be possible for us to do it differently anyway. But there are a lot of great lessons, such as:

“There’s something else that we could learn from pretty much any foreign country. The American idea that a husband and wife should reveal the entire contents of their brain to each other doesn’t exist anywhere else. Doing so probably removes a necessary mystery from marriage. It might be better to have some secrets, or at least pretend that you do” (277).

The fact is, we are pretty weird and prudish compared to a lot of the world. (Interestingly, it seems that the other country that comes close to our level of prudishness is–are you ready for this?–France.) Druckerman does a great job of skewering the American obsession with knowing every last detail about an affair, having to talk it out for years, the endless pain that results, etc. Which is not to say that affairs aren’t painful and disorienting, just that maybe our psychological-industrial complex way of dealing with them isn’t the most healthy.

The writing is great and engaging; Druckerman does a great job of being in the story without taking the focus off the material. She also looks at the differences between men and women cheating in each area, which is interesting, as well as how the consequences of infidelity are different in different contexts. Anyway, whether you’ve been the guilty party, the wronged party, or neither, this is a great light non-fiction read.

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