For some reason while looking through all of the lovely new fall books for one to read, I was overtaken by a sense of ennui. All I could think was, "Meh." Maybe there are some good ones or even great ones, but, "Meh."
And then I noticed what looked like a retro cover design (it was, those crafty publishers) and picked it up. Wouldn't you know, it was Other Men's Daughters by Richard G. Stern. The NY Times Review of Books calls is the equivalent of the Great Gatsby to the sixties. It was published in 1973, so, whatever.
The introduction is written by Philip Roth--a man I think looks like such an asshat that I haven't read any of his books--and he speaks of his friend Richard Stern in such a kind and respectful way that I then went out and bought Portnoy's Complaint.
I suppose I am going through something of a 1970s retrospective. Maybe the next will be Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
Other Men's Daughters has captivated me in a combination of nostalgia (I was eight when the book came out) and respect for the quality of the writing. [Sometimes I have a sense of amazement that I hate and regret with regard to the fact that books prior to the 1990s were written on typewriters. Typewriters!? Can you imagine?]. The story takes place in Cambridge and its protagonist is a man who has a life many would envy. Harvard professor, beautiful Cambridge house, beautiful family, etc., etc. And yet, he is unhappy with his wife whom he casts as nearly a shrew. When a young summer student (21-years to his 40-something) shows a shine toward him, he melts.
I find it incredible how open he is about this affair. He takes her out and runs into friends and parades his young love like a rare piece of arm jewelry. In return, some admire, others warn, and there is some jealousy. I'm not through the book, but I really do find it to be a phenomenal document that brings me back and sheds light on a time where my parents were the same age as the protagonist and I the same age as his kids.
So the point, I guess, is not to always be retro, but to keep an open eye for gems you may not have heard of.