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Culture and Arts

Culture Watch

In this issue:

Books:

Catherine Ries reviews Jane Juska's frank memoir of her late life search and adventure for romantic attachments: A Round-Heeled Woman

And Consider This:

The Yale Center for British Art is currently hosting an exhibit entitled, Pieces Of Eden; Petra: Lost City of Stone presents the ancient metropolis of Petra, which was literally carved from the red sandstone in the harsh desert cliffs of southern Jordan; Roaring into the Twenties: The New New York Woman follows women liberated from the Victorian age through the lens of the industries that capitalized on this new freedom: fashion, entertainment, health and beauty.

Books

A Round-Heeled Woman
a novel by Jane Juska
Villard, 272 pp

At the age of 66, Jane Juska explored a sexual fantasy by running a personal ad in the New York Review of Books. It read:

BEFORE I TURN 67 next March I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works for me.

The responses she received were variously romantic, obscene, literary, and funny. After sorting the letters into piles labeled yes, no, and maybe, she began an adventure exploring her own sexuality, inner strengths, and insecurities.

Juska herself is not the average woman. Into the stories of her late-life adventure she weaves her relationship with her parents, her thirty years as a single woman and single parent, and her struggles with substance abuse. Through it all, she maintained her career as an English literature teacher and volunteer prison educator.

Though Juskas ad is on its face an invitation for sex, clearly a man I like implies, for her, a man with education, sophistication, and a broad background in literature. She describes in some detail four relationships that arise from her ad. The most entertaining encounter is her very first meeting: lunch in a public place with a self-styled Irish life of the party. It was not an auspicious beginning, and it is greatly to Juskas credit that she pressed on in her quest. Subsequent sexual partners, or at least those that she chooses to tell us about, are all interesting men, each with his own reasons for responding to her ad. Some of the men she refuses to meet might have made an even better story. (Who was the very famous man that she relegated to the no pile?)

Part of the fascination and fun of the book is imagining how one might have done it differently. Whom she chose to meet, what she chose to wear, how she arranged the first meeting with each man is almost a reader-participation game. Where she found the most satisfaction is a surprise, and an invitation to a sequel.

Jane Juska is an intelligent, thoughtful, and good humored writer, with a healthy recognition of her assets and her liabilities. She demonstrates that sexuality doesnt have an age limit.

Culture Watch continued>>>

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