cover image Adultery CL

Adultery CL

Louise A. DeSalvo. Beacon Press (MA), $20 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-8070-6224-1

In a tart and entertaining treatise on adultery, Hunter College professor DeSalvo (Writing as a Way of Healing) offers sometimes dueling perspectives based on personal experience and objective curiosity. Fueled by the memory of her husband's infidelity during the early years of their marriage and by her own indiscretions with respect to former boyfriends, the author seeks to examine why people cheat and why they then love to talk and write about their perfidy. Written in a breezy, stream-of-consciousness style, the book is more than a social critique. It also serves as a portrait of a marriage that has survived adultery, as a memoir of growing up under the threat of a father's violent outbursts and as an exploration of adultery's prominence in literature, from Dante's Divine Comedy to the Kinsey report. DeSalvo leaps from her husband to Colette, from minor anecdotes to major hypotheses, without sacrificing clarity or sincerity. The work is tied together by literature just as, DeSalvo speculates, adultery binds its participants through the process of storytelling. She stirs the still-smoldering embers of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair as proof that Americans love a good story--and all the more if it involves sexual indiscretion. In attempting to map the ""uncharted and often unpredictable emotional terrain"" of adultery, she provides an intelligent and thought-provoking inquiry into why sexual infidelity will always fascinate us. Agent, Geri Thoma, Elaine Markson Literary Agency. (Aug.)