cover image The Men's Room

The Men's Room

Ann Oakley. Atheneum Books, $18.95 (309pp) ISBN 978-0-689-12050-3

Funny and poignant, this post-feminist send-up concerns two professors, sporadically involved in a love affair during the years between 1978 and 2000. The members of English sociologist Oakley's ( Taking It Like a Woman ) fictional sociology department turn out to be a shoplifting busybody, an embezzler, an alcoholic secretary, a compulsive womanizer, a predatory feminist and the novel's heroine, Charity Walton. Charity takes up with the womanizer, divorces her husband, raises four children, succeeds at her profession, has intense friendships with women, but never gains access to the inner sanctum where men are truly themselves. Amusing without being absurd, told with compassion, each chapter begins with a quote from Simone de Beauvoir's Second Sex that pits early feminist theory against the reality of middle-class living. Sometimes theory and reality jibe, sometimes not. Always Oakley's literate characters, her knowledge of psycho-sociologic methods and her straightforward prose make entertaining an essentially pessimistic novel in which men are incapable of sustaining intimacy with women. (Apr.)