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by Daniel Jones (Editor)
HarperAudio, 2004
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Jun 24th 2004

The Bastard on the Couch CD

The changing roles of men and women in the modern world are causing people much confusion.  The Bitch in the House was a best-selling collection of women's reflections on their relationships with men, many expressing anger at their partners and ex-husbands for not living up to their half of the bargain.  The Bastard on the Couch is a follow-up volume, where men discuss their feelings about their lives with women and their attempts to discover what behavior is appropriate when it is no longer possible to simply follow tradition. 

Of course, there are plenty of families that do follow traditional roles, and there are many other families that have simply disintegrated.  What's more, there are many non-traditional gay and lesbian families.  None of these are included in this collection.  But it is OK to focus on a particular group, the struggling new family with sensitive straight men who do not want to follow in their fathers' footsteps and ambitious women who want to succeed on all fronts.  The men try marriage or a different kind of single life, and they try to explain how it suits them, and how they feel about not having a stay-at-home wife who has their meal ready at the end of the day when they get home from work.  The women talk about their inevitable anger when they discover how difficult it is to have it all. 

Despite its rather misleading title, this audiobook in fact contains selections from both these books, Bastard and Bitch, read by the original authors.  It has pieces by seven men and five women, plus introductions from the editors, and plays for 6 hours.  Since these are from two books, it means that we only get a very small selection from the original books.  I have not seen those original books, so I can't say how representative the selections in the audiobook are.  Personally, I find the audiobook is enough; it is interesting to hear people's thoughts about  their lives, but I don't feel inspired to get more of the gruesome details as chronicled in the full books.

The pieces included in the audiobook are good.  To give some examples: Steve Friedman discusses his reluctance to get married, his wish to avoid the hell that was his parents' marriage, and the possibility of forming a good permanent relationship with a woman. Veronica Chambers talks about her changing feelings about cohabitation and marriage, and Christopher Russell talks about being in a marriage where his wife not only earns much more in her high flying job than he does as a ceramicist, but where each morning his wife leaves him a list of chores for him to perform that day.  Kristin van Ogtrop describes her juggling of career and marriage and all the mixed feelings that come with the struggle.  Elissa Schappell agonizes about the way she becomes so angry with her children sometimes.  My favorite piece is that by editor Daniel Jones about the way that being part of a non-oppressive relationship has meant that he has mostly stopped being chivalrous towards his wife, Cathi Hanauer, even though when he was a younger man he was one of the most considerate and polite dates a girl could hope to have. 

Many people in their twenties, thirties and forties who have dealt with relationships and careers will very likely find much to identify with in these reflections.  The authors are not particularly typical of the general population in that at generally they or their partners are very successful in their jobs and are probably bringing in much more than the average wage.  Many of them seem to be associated with the New York publishing world.  But they are highly articulate and even funny in discussing their personal foibles, disappointed hopes and persistent aspirations.  For the many people who are in similar positions, this collection may be reassuring and possibly even enlightening. 



© 2004 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.


Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.