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Love Woodley Park. Hate Woodley parking.

I was rereading a Kingsley Amis novel recently, Jake’s Thing. Protagonist is Jake Richardson, a guy in his mid-fifties, who, at the beginning of the novel, is having, er, difficulties in the sack, your classic erectile dysfunction problems. Novel is set in the late ‘70s, so the problem is quite obviously psychological and nothing else. So the quite obvious answer is therapy: we follow Jake as he’s led through the unsuccessful therapy, which he attends with his wife and a female therapist, as well as through a series of escapades and vignettes in which nearly every single woman in his life (and some who aren’t) end up blaming him for their problems. At the end of the novel, his marriage, along with a number of other relationships, has disintegrated, and we see him once again in a doctor’s office (though this time it’s a different doctor than the one who had “diagnosed” his problems at the novel’s start). Turns out, Jake’s new doctor tells him, his problem is purely physical, and can be treated by simply taking a few pills, which his doctor offers to prescribe. Suddenly, the narrative makes us privvy to Jake’s thoughts:

He did a quick run-through of women in his mind, not of the ones he had known or dealt with in the past months or years so much as all of them: their concern with the surface of things, with objects and appearances, with their surroundings and how they looked and sounded in them, with seeming to be better and to be right while getting everything wrong, their automatic assumption of the role of injured party in any clash of wills, their certainty that a view is the more credible and useful for the fact that they hold it, their use of misunderstanding and misrepresentation as weapons of debate, their selective sensitivity to tones of voice, their unawareness of the difference in themselves between sincerity and insincerity, their interest in importance (together with a noticeable inability to discriminate in that sphere), their fondness for general conversation and directionless discussion, their pre-emption of the major share of feeling, their exaggerated estimate of their own plausibility, their never listening and lots of other things like that, according to him.

What does he say to the prescription? “No thanks.”

Jake’s Thing by Kingsley Amis. I often wonder if Amis wasn’t a precursor to the “laddism” that swept Britain and metropolitan parts of the U.S. over the last couple years, an anticipatory shot fired in the early years of the sex wars. And perhaps the “chick lit” craze is a reaction to this…

The Bloody Crossroads: the place where literature and sexual politics meet, eh?

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