The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer
Riverhead • $25.95 • April 5, 2011
It’s no secret that I was excited about the upcoming release of Meg Wolitzer’s The Uncoupling—so when an extra galley came in, Abby was kind enough to share it with me. The new novel has a fable-like atmosphere that sets it apart from Wolitzer’s earlier works, but it contains the same type of trenchant observations, humor and wholly human characters that she is known for.
The action centers on Dory and Robby Lang, well-liked and respected teachers at Eleanor Roosevelt High who have a 15-year-old daughter, Willa. But when a new drama teacher rolls into town with plans to help the high school perform Lysistrata, a cold wind enters the Langs’ formerly passionate relationship—and that of others in their small New Jersey town.
This passage appears after Dory and Robby have invited the drama teacher and her son, Eli, to dinner and it is discovered that Eli is a reader—something that the three teachers know is unusual these days.
This was true; reading as a passion was fading away, and everyone knew it. Sometimes, when Dory took the train into the city for the day, she would see novels for sale on street corners, as if their owners were surrendering them in an act of radical house cleaning for the new century. The changes in reading were all bound up not only with technology, but love and sex too, though it was hard to tease it all apart.
You weren’t supposed to think life was worse now; it was “different,” everyone said. But Dory privately thought it was worse. The intimacy of reading had been traded in for the rapid absorption of information. and the intimacy of love, well, that had been traded in for something far more public and open. What had happened to sexual shyness? she wondered, picturing herself in her parents’ house in Brooklyn, knowing nothing, having never seen a naked man, and being shocked to the point of aneurysm when a boy put her hand on his lap at a party. Sexual shyness and lack of information—they were gone. But was that so terrible. The world was different, not worse, her colleagues said to one another. Different, not worse. They said this like a silent mantra as they walked down the hallways of the school, or navigated the wild and lush, brightly lit planet.
What are you reading today?