Polyamory-Related Books

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Poly Journalism

Journalistic works that discuss polyamory...


Thy Neighbor's Wife

Gay Talese

Perhaps Guy Talese's most famous work, Thy Neighbor's Wife was many people's first complete introduction to the Americal sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, ranging from the history of Playboy and massage parlors to the legal debate over obscenity, and from the history of the 19th century Oneida community to the intricate interpersonal workings of the Sandstone community.

The latter proved (to me, at least) to be interesting from a polyamorous perspective... it grew out of John Williamson's group which was exploring enhancing intimacy by breaking down the sexually prescribed boundaries of clothing and monogamy. The relationships surrounding him, Judy Bullaro and her husband John provide interesting reading.

Unfortunately, TNW appears to be out of print, but was reprinted as recently as 1993, so often used copies can be found.

Bill Ragett rates this book a 9 (Excellent) and says:

I just finished They Neighbor's Wife--and it instantly became one of my favorite books. Extremely well researched and well written, I heartily recommend it to anyone interested in the possibilities of moving beyond socially accepted sexual roles.

Actually at first I found myself being angry at Talese--but I soon realized it was because I wanted more information--the book ends in the late 70's and I desperately wanted to hear the further adventures of many of the main characters--what has happened to john and Barbara--how did the writing of the book effect Talese's marriage, what is Hefner up to now that he is in his 60s (70s)?... Many questions about polyamory, although well explored in the book, need further reporting.

Talese does a great job of refraining from moralizing--of very objectively reporting what people felt, thought and did. I noticed this especially because the copy I had at first was an old paperback in which a previous reader had underlined favorite lines--mostly reflecting their more prurient philosophy--not agreeing with Talese--but with the musings of one of the characters. Talese has produced a great in depth-review of the sexual revolution, all the more valuable because he does not moralize.

The second gripe I had at first with the book was that it was a mish mash of topics--Hugh Hefner and other skin magazine businessmen, court cases on obscenity, massage parlors and birth of open marriages and alternative sexual relations. I had wanted to hear more about the long term effects of open marriages and polyamory and less about the skin trade--but came to appreciate Talese's research in these fields too--realizing that these aspects added to an understanding of the sexual revolution.

I just wish now he had written more on the effects of the Sandstone experiment on the psyches of those involved--what happened to all the folks that participated--later to form couples and leave.

I also treasure the last chapter, in which Talese describes his own participation in the 'revolution'--it very clearly shows why he wrote the book and some of its effects on his life.

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