Poly books in the news
Here's a roundup of recent media prompted by books on polyamory.
Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships by Tristan Taormino (371 pages, Cleis Press, May 2008).
Sex author Tristan Taormino keeps adding to her list of media appearances for this book, which was published last spring.
A new addition to the list: in Montreal's weekly newspaper Hour, a columnist muses on the meaning of Taormino's book and also Jenny Block's Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage, which was published at nearly the same time:
By Laura Roberts [Nov. 6, 2008]
...Both Jenny Block and Tristan Taormino make the argument that human beings, like many other animal species, just aren't cut out for lifelong relationship commitments. In her book Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage, Block discusses her own decision to open up her marriage. Taormino's book, Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships, is a sort of how-to manual that focuses on the history and various kinds of open relationships. Both writers agree that monogamy is rarely an option that is chosen these days so much as dictated by society. Indeed, the society we currently live in would have us believe that the perfect couple is one in which neither partner needs nor wants anything outside of the relationship.
This is, of course, insane....
...Certainly, open relationships aren't the answer for everyone, but these two books urge us all to communicate more about our own wants and needs sound advice for couples of all kinds.
Read the whole article.
In the UK, The F Word, "contemporary UK feminism," presents a long review of Opening Up:
By Red Chidgey
Once past the salacious opening of Taormino admitting she enjoyed public sex parties, the writing style and presentation of this book is textbook detached. The romantics amongst us might prefer the more poly-as-gift approach of Wendy-O Matik’s Redefining Our Relationships, which speaks to the creative, focused-attention side of open relationships and anarcha-dating styles. Or there’s the juicily imaginative Pagan Polyamory: Becoming a Tribe of Hearts, by Raven Kaldera a witch’s look at building a community of lovers which deals with the obstacles and challenges of polyamory from an astrological/Pagan approach: from communication processes of Mercury to the transformations of Pluto.
This said, Opening Up is a much-welcome addition to the polyamory fray and deals expertly with the philosophical and manifold reasons for giving up on the ghost of monogamy.... In terms of breadth, it rivals other books on the market for providing working models for all kinds of non-exclusive permeations and for being transparent about the demographics of its research informants (the appendices include a breakdown of age, occupation and so on for the hundred or so people who contributed their stories to the book). For open-relationship beginners, it is an excellent first port of call; for those who greedily snap up anything on poly-loving that they can find, it might not offer anything new, but it will refresh your memory about stuff that is worth revisiting.
Yep, Opening Up may skimp on lurid details of play mates and sex adventures, or fall short on suggestive ideas about the erotic/cute things you can do for the lovers in your life (take a look at the poly bible The Ethical Slut for that); but it does provide a comprehensive journey for relationship self-starters. Demonstrating that non-exclusive relationships aren’t just for the queers and self-confessed perverts, Taormino weaves interviews, analysis and in-depth profiles of poly practitioners to represent and eulogize how everyday “people make room in their beds, lives, and hearts for other people”. Count me in.
Read the whole review (Sept. 4, 2008).
Taormino is currently back out on the book-tour trail, with public appearances coming up in Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Washington DC, and Baltimore; see her schedule of events.
Taormino maintains an Opening Up book website that's especially notable for its big, up-to-date listings of poly resources including local and regional poly groups and poly-friendly professionals (therapists, doctors, lawyers, etc.).
Also, don't miss her sex-advice site Pucker Up (NSFW), and her Double-T Newsletter. Sadly, she was recently laid off from her longtime Village Voice column.
Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage by Jenny Block (276 pages, Seal Press, May 2008).
Meanwhile, Jenny Block appeared last week on "Good Morning Texas," a TV talk show in her home area, Dallas/Fort Worth. Watch it here (Nov 6, 2008).
The Tyra Banks Show has put up a quick video of Jenny giving a few sentences of open-relationship advice, and the comments are burning up. Add your own.
She has also gotten a new gig writing a weekly Sex Talk column in Quick, a free weekly paper put out by the mainstream Dallas Morning News.
The best-selling lesbian magazine Curve interviews Block in its November issue. The interview is not on the web (yet); it's in the paper magazine only.
Block has a column in the Huffington Post. She also has a new video up on Tango magazine's website, for which she has written several articles.
She also contributed the lead chapter to a new anthology titled One Big Happy Family: 18 Writers Talk About Polyamory, Open Adoption, Mixed Marriage, Househusbands, Single Motherhood, and Other Realities of Truly Modern Love, edited by Rebecca Walker (Riverhead Books). The book is due out February 19, 2009. "These plainspoken, cage-rattling essays... address how dramatically the traditional nuclear American family has changed," writes Publisher's Weekly. Read the whole review; scroll 1/8 of the way down (Nov. 10, 2008).
The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and "Catherine A. Liszt" (Janet Hardy) (279 pages, Greenery Press, 1997) is now 11 years old and getting dated. A revised and expanded second edition is due out next year. But the current edition is still selling well and getting occasional media notice, such as this from Time Out New York:
Free love: Is getting intimate with more than one person really so wrong?
By Julia Allison
I first heard of the 1997 cult-favorite book The Ethical Slut almost a year ago, when the guy I was seeing at the time referenced it to support his case (more like plea) for an open relationship. I found the title intriguing, but only recently purchased a copy. The premise is that polyamory (being romantically involved with more than one person at a time) is our natural state monogamy, not so much.
...The authors argue that it’s not inherently unethical to have simultaneous partners; what is unethical is treating your partners badly.... “We measure the ethics of a good slut not by the number of his partners, but by the respect and care with which he treats them.... One-night stands can be intense, life-enhancing and fulfilling; so can lifetime love affairs,” they write.
They take issue with our culture’s prevailing sentiment that “If you’re really in love, you will automatically lose all interest in others,” and the corollary “If you’re having sexual or romantic feelings toward anyone but your partner, you’re not really in love.”
...On a personal level, the authors might have convinced me that any hurt I’ve experienced is just the grief over what I’ve considered to be another strikeout in the relationship game. Perhaps I should take a look at it from their point of view: “Our monogamy-centrist culture tends to assume that the purpose and ultimate goal of all relationships and, for that matter, all sex is lifetime pair-bonding, and that any relationship which falls short of that goal has failed.... All relationships have the potential to teach us, move us, and above all, give us pleasure.”
...Honestly, if all men I dated treated me with this much respect and love, I’d probably have slept with a lot more of them.
Read the whole article (July 17-23, 2008).
In yet more poly book news: Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli posts that her new young-adult novel Love You Two (Random House, October 2008; 307 pages; ISBN 9781741660715 paperpack) "has been published here in Australia. It is the first to address polyamorous and bisexual relationships, particularly for young adults, in Australia. Any critical feedback is most welcome!" (It's now available on Amazon.)
Here is the publisher's description:
When Maria was a little girl, her mum used to sign cards and notes to her and her younger brother Leo with the crazy line, Love you t(w)oo. It was supposed to make them feel like their mum had heaps of love for both of them, that she loved them equally. Well, that's okay when you love all your kids. Actually, that's the way it should be. But what happens when your mum decides that her turning-40 revolution is going to be the announcement that she loves your dad as much as ever, but is also in love with someone else! Maria's mum has always been strong and funny and maybe a bit too cool for a mum. Maria's always loved her mum for fighting the 'old wog ways' and making sure Maria has an easier time growing up and discovering love than she did. But can Maria's love for her mum deal with this? Is there a limit to love and can it easily turn to hate? Does love end? What is love anyway? And what does it all mean for Maria's own feelings about her new guy?
From the author:
Love You Two was inspired by Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli’s 15 years of community work and academic research and publishing in sexual, family and cultural diversity in Australia, with an emphasis on adults and adolescents, and parents and their children.
She says, ‘There were lots of people I’d met, events I’d witnessed, that just hung around in my head and heart begging to be taken out, aired and affirmed. I wanted to write a comforting, funny, challenging and realistic book for young people and the adults in their lives who love “differently”, whose families are misunderstood, misrepresented, and hidden, so that they could find themselves and know that what matters is how people love, not who they love.’
And this is from a review by an English teacher:
...Here, [she] encounters a different style of living where openness and acceptance are the norm: ‘Where people are multicultural, multisexual. Where knowing how to love is what matters, not who you love.’ Love You Two is an absorbing coming-of-age novel about the complex nature of identity: the false fronts that people present to the world and the secrets they keep hidden. The ideas presented in it are radical and challenging perhaps too much so for some with homosexuality and bisexuality, polygamy and sexual intimacy discussed in a frank and open manner. At times, this makes for discomfiting reading. Ultimately, while Love You Two is to be commended for its bravery, it should be recommended with discernment.