A Conversation with Best-Selling Author, Meg Wolitzer

Wolitzer, and Carlos Eire, will be featured speakers at the Friends of the Library luncheon.

Meg Wolitzer and bookcoverOn Friday, May 13, the Friends of the will host the 42nd annual book and author luncheon, featuring authors Meg Wolitzer and Carlos Eire. Earlier this month, Wolitzer published her latest book, “The Uncoupling,” a story mixing humor and insight while examining the changing nature of female desire, and the reaction by men and women to that change. Port Washington Patch reporter Ann Latner spoke with Wolitzer about her new book and the upcoming library luncheon.

The premise of your book is that while a high school performance of Lysistrata is being developed by a new drama teacher in the fictional town of Stellar Plains, NJ, many of the women in the town fall under an enchantment which makes them lose interest in sex. [Lysistrata is a play by Aristophanes in which the women of Greece go on a sex strike against their men in order to stop a war]. Where did you come up with this idea?

I knew I was interested in incorporating the Aristophanes play Lysistrata into my novel, but I wasn’t sure exactly how to go about it including it. In the play, the women of Greece go on a sex strike until the war ends; I soon realized that what interested me most as a novelist was not the war aspect, but the women’s response to the removal of sex. So I decided not to do a contemporary, novelized version of Lysistrata, but instead to use the taking-away of sex as a way to look at female desire over time.

In the book, the men react very poorly to their wives, lovers, or girlfriends suddenly denying them sex, even when the female character is still committed to her male partner as a friend/partner (like the main characters Dory and Robby). What does this say about men?

I think the men in my novel are vulnerable, for the most part, and don’t know exactly what’s happening to them. Their responses come from a sense of helplessness and frustration more than anything else. They wonder: why has everything changed? And they don’t know the answer to that, and so they’re angry or defeated or upset.

Similarly, it seemed that women and men couldn’t manage to have caring but non-sexual relationships in Stellar Plains. Once the sex was gone, everyone’s “mojo” seemed completely off-kilter. Is that a reflection on the relationship of men and women? Can men and women have sexless, but satisfactory lives together?

Couples have all kinds of relationships, from wildly sexual to not sexual at all. The truth is that we never really know what’s going on in anyone else’s relationship. We think we do, but we never get the full story because we aren’t part of the couple. I know that couples can have a variety of kinds of lives together. And even within a marriage or relationship, there are always vicissitudes. In The Uncoupling, I’m dealing with reality as I might usually go about portraying it in a novel, as well as a sort of heightened reality; I don’t think that everyone’s mojo would necessarily be off-kilter if such a spell were to land on a town or a school. (But remember, writers make choices about which characters they focus on.) In real life, I don’t think changes in sex ruin everything for all couples, but I wanted to take a look at what might happen when things change for reasons that both members of the couple don’t even understand. We are constantly changing in various ways, and sex can be one of those ways.

In some ways, your book was a sort of fairy tale – with a spell falling over the women one by one, and that final moment when it was lifted. Did you see this as a modern fairy tale when you were writing it?

I saw it as a novel through and through, with a fable-like element. I never in my life thought I would ever write anything with any magic realism in it… but there you have it! Life is surprising.

One of your characters was particularly interesting – the school psychologist who was juggling three men (one married) at the same time. Leanne was an unusual and complex character who sort of marched to her own drummer. Any future plans on writing a book with Leanne as the main character?

No. Once I’m done with a novel I think I’m done with that character too, though I’m glad you found her interesting. I don’t think my books lend themselves well to sequels. They are pretty much self-contained.

Should we in Port Washington (which sounds fairly similar to the town of Stellar Plains), be concerned if the high school drama department decides to stage Lysistrata?

Yes! You should all hold your husbands and partners close!

You’ll be speaking at the Friends of the Library luncheon on May 13. What can attendees expect, and can they come with questions?

I am really looking forward to coming. I hope to talk about writing, being a writer, growing up with a mother who was a writer, maybe read a little bit form the book, perhaps; and definitely, questions are always wonderful. I love to answer them.

The FOL Luncheon will take place on May 13 from 11:30am to 2:30pm at the . Reservations for tickets may be made by phone or email through Sunday, May 8th. Contact Tinu Thakore at 767 1142, or tinutm@aol.com. Look here for more information. – http://www.pwpl.org/wordpress1/wp-content/uploads/FOL_BA_Brochure_2011.pdf