In the age of Internet porn, "Girls Gone Wild" videos and Paris
Hilton's home movies, it's safe to say that American popular
culture has managed to strip the last shred of romance out of sex.
Somewhere in our national neurotic jumble of puritanical guilt and
secret titillation we lost touch with whatever it is that makes
lovemaking something other than an X-rated version of seven minutes
of high-impact aerobics. And that's exactly why Peter Friedman's
sweet and funny IDEAL MARRIAGE is such a pure pleasure.
Set in New York City in 1957, IDEAL MARRIAGE follows a year in the
life of Andre Schulman, a sixteen-year-old boy eager to complete
his passage into manhood. Like any sixteen-year-old of any era,
Andre thinks about sex. But he is the diametric opposite of Philip
Roth's Portnoy. Rather than an obsession with the physical act,
Andre exhibits a dedication to a kind of holistic notion of
romantic love that includes sex, rather than being dominated by it.
It's an attitude that is less naïve than it is sweetly,
idealistically practical. Andre wants to get married some day and
enjoy a lifetime of romance and sex with a woman with whom he is
deeply, passionately in love. Andre is no Boy Scout, and his
ambitions aren't driven by any phony sense of morality. He simply
has a particular goal in mind.
In his effort to achieve this goal, Andre studies a book he finds
hidden "behind four volumes of the Yearbook of Agriculture" on his
parent's bookshelf: IDEAL MARRIAGE: Its Physiology and Technique.
As it happens, this is a real book, written in 1926 by Dutch
gynecologist Theodoor Hendrik Van de Velde. (Go ahead, look it up,
ISBN: 0313224420.) The book provides Andre with frank and
surprisingly poetic advice on the emotional and physical expression
of love. Short passages from the book appear at the beginning of
each chapter of Andre's first-person narrative.
Through the narrative Andre reveals himself to be a smart,
sensitive, thoughtful and surprisingly mature young man. His
flights of neurotic imagination are as likely to find him
daydreaming about a romantic encounter with a girl as they are
having him ruminating over the possibility of a surprise Russian
nuclear attack. He analyzes everything. Even the most miniscule
details of daily life attract his slightly off-kilter scrutiny. His
inner dialogue, as well as his conversations with friends and
family, kept me in a constant grin, periodically interrupted by
There isn't a wasted word in this compact confection of a novel.
Author Peter Friedman delivers a fine and funny homage to romance,
to youth and to the subtle complexities of love in all of its
manifestations. Yet, he addresses his subject matter in a manner
that won't rot your teeth or leave you worrying about your carb
intake. IDEAL MARRIAGE is a guilt-free dessert of a book, a
refreshing tonic to an age that accepts getting flashed by a
drunken coed during spring break as a romantic encounter. Peter
Friedman's IDEAL MARRIAGE reminds us that there's something better.
Reviewed by Bob Rhubart on January 22, 2011
- Publication Date: November 30, -0001
- Genres: Fiction
- Hardcover: 176 pages
- Publisher: Permanent Press (NY)
- ISBN-10: 1579621007
- ISBN-13: 9781579621001