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Husbandry: Sex, Love, and Dirty Laundry: Inside the Minds of Married Men
By Stephen Fried
192 pages; $18
Stephen Fried is an investigative journalist who has written three previous books: Thing of Beauty, Inside the Hazardous World of Legal Drugs and The New Rabbi.
His first book, Thing of Beauty, described the model Gia Carangi, whose career ended when she died of AIDS and heroin addiction at 26. An Emmy-winning HBO film, Gia, was based on the book, in which Fried coined the word "fashionista." His second book was motivated by his wife's severely adverse reaction to a prescription drug. It raised serious questions about drug safety.
The New Rabbi examined the search for a rabbi by a Philadelphia suburban synagogue.
His new book, Husbandry, presents 31 brief essays that originally appeared in The Ladies' Home Journal. Fried redefines the word "husbandry" as "musings on being a husband."
His insights are based primarily on his 20 years of marriage to novelist Diane Ayres, whose debut novel, Other Girls, was published in 2002.
Occasionally, to buttress his viewpoints, Fried briefly mentions a study or a so-called authoritative source. However, as he gives no information about these citations, readers are left to wonder about their authenticity.
At one point, in discussing holiday observance, Fried says that he and his wife are Jewish. Later, he says that "our parents grew up in different faiths." Presumably, he means that his wife converted to Judaism, but readers have to figure this out for themselves. Aside from a brief discussion of differences in the way the families observed Hanukka and Christmas, the subject of religion is surprisingly absent.
This lighthearted and humorous compilation explores what some writers have called "the battle of the sexes" by referring initially to the marital problem created by the husband's dropping the socks he has worn near but not in the laundry basket and by his leaving dirty dishes in the sink.
Many other marital concerns are discussed, ranging from from diets to bathroom use, to frequency of sex, to snoring, to TV watching, to divorce, to husbands looking at other women, to clothes, to driving. Mixed into this recital are several discussions that are peripherally related to husband-wife relationships, such as locker-room conversations among men and three-times-a-week basketball games.
This easy-to-read collection has some clever insights into the problems of married couples. Fried works hard to be funny and some readers may find the book to be amusing. It is an open question, however, as to whether or not Fried has actually fulfilled his objective of writing a manual on how to be happily married.
The writer is the founding dean of the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University, and dean emeritus, School of Social Work, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.