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The changing roles of men and women
in the modern world are causing people much confusion. The Bitch in the House was a
best-selling collection of women's reflections on their relationships with men,
many expressing anger at their partners and ex-husbands for not living up to
their half of the bargain. The
Bastard on the Couch is a follow-up volume, where men discuss their
feelings about their lives with women and their attempts to discover what
behavior is appropriate when it is no longer possible to simply follow
Of course, there are plenty of
families that do follow traditional roles, and there are many other families
that have simply disintegrated. What's
more, there are many non-traditional gay and lesbian families. None of these are included in this
collection. But it is OK to focus on a
particular group, the struggling new family with sensitive straight men who do
not want to follow in their fathers' footsteps and ambitious women who want to
succeed on all fronts. The men try
marriage or a different kind of single life, and they try to explain how it suits
them, and how they feel about not having a stay-at-home wife who has their meal
ready at the end of the day when they get home from work. The women talk about their inevitable anger
when they discover how difficult it is to have it all.
Despite its rather misleading
title, this audiobook in fact contains selections from both these books,
Bastard and Bitch, read by the original authors. It has pieces by seven men and five women,
plus introductions from the editors, and plays for 6 hours. Since these are from two books, it means
that we only get a very small selection from the original books. I have not seen those original books, so I
can't say how representative the selections in the audiobook are. Personally, I find the audiobook is enough;
it is interesting to hear people's thoughts about their lives, but I don't feel inspired to get more of the
gruesome details as chronicled in the full books.
The pieces included in the audiobook are good. To give some examples: Steve Friedman discusses his reluctance to
get married, his wish to avoid the hell that was his parents' marriage, and the
possibility of forming a good permanent relationship with a woman. Veronica
Chambers talks about her changing feelings about cohabitation and marriage, and
Christopher Russell talks about being in a marriage where his wife not only
earns much more in her high flying job than he does as a ceramicist, but where
each morning his wife leaves him a list of chores for him to perform that
day. Kristin van Ogtrop describes her
juggling of career and marriage and all the mixed feelings that come with the
struggle. Elissa Schappell agonizes
about the way she becomes so angry with her children sometimes. My favorite piece is that by editor Daniel
Jones about the way that being part of a non-oppressive relationship has meant
that he has mostly stopped being chivalrous towards his wife, Cathi Hanauer,
even though when he was a younger man he was one of the most considerate and
polite dates a girl could hope to have.
Many people in their twenties, thirties and forties who have dealt with
relationships and careers will very likely find much to identify with in these
reflections. The authors are not
particularly typical of the general population in that at generally they or
their partners are very successful in their jobs and are probably bringing in
much more than the average wage. Many
of them seem to be associated with the New York publishing world. But they are highly articulate and even
funny in discussing their personal foibles, disappointed hopes and persistent aspirations. For the many people who are in similar
positions, this collection may be reassuring and possibly even
© 2004 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.
Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of
the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at
Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online
Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine,
psychiatry and psychology.
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