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Thy Neighbor's Wife

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  1,254 ratings  ·  121 reviews
"Engrossing and provocative." Library Journal

Bestselling author Gay Talese's exploration into the hidden and changing sex lives of Americans from all walks of life shocked the world when it was first published in 1981. Now considered a classic, this fascinating personal odyssey and revealing public reflection on American sexuality changed the way Americans look
Paperback, 480 pages
Published March 1st 1995 by Ivy Books (first published January 1st 1980)
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Average rating 3.90  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,254 ratings  ·  121 reviews

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Mar 09, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics, non-fiction
A couple of my friends read this book and enjoyed it and, after reading Sex at Dawn recently, which provides an evolutionary psychology based argument against monogamy, I became interested in reading this book chronicling American adventures in sexual nonconformity during the so-called sexual revolution. Talese has that new journalism style which will be very familiar for those who have read some of his contemporaries, such as Studs Terkel and Joan Didion. His writing style kind of floats from o ...more
Oct 06, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not going to lie at the outset and say I picked up this book because it's a classic. I could, because it is. Gay Talese was one of the pioneers of New Journalism. Thy Neighbor's Wife combines the scope and detail of a Tom Wolfe epic with the vivid scene recreations of a Truman Capote and filters them through the Marquis de Sade.

But that's not why I read it.

In the internet era, porn is cheap and easy. I wanted a challenge. I wanted my smut done up right, by a literary professional.

Heather K (dentist in my spare time)
Buddy read with one of my friends

Paid full price for it too... *grumbles*
Dec 12, 2007 rated it really liked it
I first read this as a teenage boy when sex seemed so far away as to exist in another world all together. It made me want to be an adult, if only so I could wifeswap and hit the orgy communes. Always, by the time my manhood dropped, such things were wayyyyy in the past. Ultimately, this book is a time piece documenting the various social experiments that in the seventies were coming to a---um---climax (sorry). The Hugh Hefner material should be reread by anyone who doesn't remember the PLAYBOY f ...more
Aug 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
There are only a couple of things that you need to be a fan of this book: 1) Be interested in topics such as the Kinsey Report and other mid-20th century (honest) explorations of sexual dynamics 2) Like the style of New Journalism and/or long-form magazine articles and 3) Be sufficiently intrigued by communes and other out-of-the box experiments in sexual freedom.

Each chapter of the book focuses on a different individual who was either strongly caught up in or directly contributed to the 20th c
Chris Gager
I read this a long time ago in paperback, but found this on the local library's for sale shelf and picked it up. It starts out with a lot of history and bios of pioneers in the sex-in-print business, mostly focusing on the story of Hugh Hefner. Pretty dry stuff so far but enlightening in its portrayal of an American society officially opposed to public dissemination of sexual imagery and literature, but (of course) fascinated by it in private. How could one NOT be??? It's sex, the most important ...more
Feb 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
A terrific primer on America's evolving prudery and promiscuity during the first half of the 20th century. Talese's treatment of the legal aspects of the sexual revolution would be utterly riveting even without the salacious material at hand. He elevates even minor characters--lawyers, ex-spouses, secretaries--to fully developed protagonists, each with a history and story. What emerges is a sprawling landscape of people and beliefs that are textured, subtle and entirely credible.

That said, it i
Evo Popoff
May 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
"Thy Neighbor's Wife" is an incredibly well written, engaging piece of journalism that explores the changing sexual values of American culture. From early explorations of free-love communities in 19th century New York State to the growth and acceptance of pornography with the mainstream success of Playboy magazine, the book provides an interesting perspective on a changing landscape and the people (Hefner, Al Goldstein, etc.)who were on the front lines of the legal and social battle. Talese is n ...more
Manik Sukoco
Dec 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
In a narrative as absorbing as a novel, Gay Talese intimately describes many of the people and events in the decades before AIDS that have influenced the redefinition of morality in America. We meet the prophets of the new sexuality: Hugh Hefner, Alex Comfort, and others. We meet couples whose buttoned-down lives were transformed by sexual liberation. We are privy to their thoughts, their fantasies, their actions as that transformation is played out against a changing sexual landscape. A landsca ...more
Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a really interesting, sprawling kind of book. I like the idea that it's kind of a social history of the sexual revolution, its antecedents and its aftermath, though I don't think that's quite it. Instead, it feels like there are two stories that are less widely regarded, the rise of pornography and the sh0rt-lived heyday of swinging communities. And while both of them are tied to the sexual revolution, they feel a lot more like secondary effects than they do drivers.

This does
Jeanne Boudreau
Apr 20, 2017 rated it liked it
The story appeared to be well researched with a great deal of historic content, but, I felt the author used this book for personal experimentation rather than for scientific or social value. The book seems like a way for him to justify his curiosity, step outside the realm of what's considered socially and morally acceptable without the fear of being judged, especially since the last chapter was written about himself but not written as a personal observation, rather that someone else was writing ...more
I read this many a years ago but honestly all I recall is the beginning which talks about Playboy. Should read this again as an older adult to see how much has changed in the world?!
Rex Fuller
Jul 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a highly detailed nonfiction account of the golden years of the sexual revolution in the United States (before AIDS). First published in 1981, it became a huge best seller, but mysteriously I don’t think I ever heard of it until now.

In the last chapter, Talese writes about himself in the third person and confesses that his research extended to personally engaging in the adulterous acts that are the essence of the book. After all, how could he write with any authority about it
Sep 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
So good. One of his best. Twist at the end, when he talks about himself (in the third person...) and the effect the book had on his marriage. Sections on Hugh Hefner are also good. Who knew Hef was such a fascinating guy...


WTF: "Also in England at this time were several presumed cures for masturbation, including a sort of chastity belt that parents could lock between their son's legs each night before he went to bed. Some of these gadgets were adorned with spikes on th
Eye-opening and fascinating, this is written in a narrative, reporting style, using indepth personal profiles of famous and ordinary pioneers in the sexual revolution of the 50s and 60s. I was often amazed at the level of repression in our "free and democratic" society as recently as just before and during my early childhood. Literature being banned, court cases involving jail time and heavy fines for simply using the US mail to send magazines or sell books to private citizens wanting to purchas ...more
Apr 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
You think you know sex? You kids today, with your Internet porn and your fifty shades of whatever. No sir, you don't know. Because you haven't read this book. Let a straight man named Gay take you through the history of sexuality in America. From the time they banned Lady Chatterley's Lover, to permanent adolescent Hugh Hefner starting Playboy magazine, to the history of Sandstone (a sexy swinger club), to how men went to jail for years for selling "dirty" books, to the multiple definitions of w ...more
Jun 04, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: sex-gender, sociedade

"The spirit is dead. The secular feast is ended."

Farther upstate was a farming community named Bryn Athyn that was inhabited by many Reich readers who believed that there was indeed a correlation between monogamy, possessiveness, jealousy, and war; but this agricultural community, like so many others that were populated by campus-bred radicals, would flounder financially because its members spent too much time reading quality paperbacks and pontificating around the fireplace and no
May 29, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2009
Occasionally engaging, occasionally sleazy, and occasionally just boring. When he's at his best, Talese is a fine journalist, digging deep and dredging up mile-long backstories about even the most minor characters who play roles of consequence. When he's not so hot, however, he plays to sensationalism, writes like a dimestore paperback scribbler, and slops on far too much prurient detail than necessary. Still, he kept me interested enough to bother winding my way through all 600 pages. All in al ...more
Jun 11, 2008 rated it liked it
this book landed in my library as part of several boxes of books that a retired oil man and journalist (Clete Jones) wanted to get rid of. At first I thought this book was fiction, as it opened with with the story of a teenaged boy fantisizing over nude pictures in an "art" magazine. But as facts and figures were revealed, I began to realize that this was a nonfiction study of the sex industry in this country. Talese, whom I knew as the author of a realistic book about the Mafia, takes over 600 ...more
Cynthia Karl
Apr 26, 2009 rated it liked it
I selected this book because I enjoyed so much Gay Talese "Unto Thy Sons" - both the writing and the story. It turned out this book about the changes in the sexual mores of the 1950s and 1960s wasn't as fascinating as "Unto Thy Sons" but since this was the period when I was young it held a lot of interest for me. The book traces some historical roots e.g. Oneida (wow!) and has a lot of information about Hefner and the rise of Playboy. It would be interesting to have the opinion of someone born p ...more
Jan 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: marriage, non-fiction
I recently read Talese's history of and report on the sexual revolution. As I recall, this book created quite a stir when it was published; I didn't read it then, and coming upon it now, decades after it was written, what strikes me most is the distance and dispassion with which Talese examines such things as the creation of "Playboy" magazine, wife-swapping, and swinging. Letting the facts speak for themselves, he paints a portrait of a "revolution" which empowers men to exploit women, although ...more
Fuck this book was good. It concerns the postwar sex lives of ordinary Americans interspersed with the ordinary lives of post war sex peddlers (Hugh Hefner gets his heart broken a lot). It took him 9 years to accomplish and it ends just seconds before the AIDS crisis. It also makes you completely understand where that went so wrong.
Sep 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Wow. Great narrative story. I did not finish this completely, but I doubt that ever will. I have learned a lot of nonfiction writing style from Gay Talese. I recommend this book and finishing it. Due to my workload I am choosing to bow out.
Feb 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Regardless of how you feel about Talese's research methods in obtaining the sordidly detailed stories and information in this book, "Thy Neighbor's Wife" is an amazing piece of journalism. Get the 2009 edition with updates; you won't be sorry.
this book wasn't keeping my interest, i got to page 87...i guess to many facts from the 1800's
Jul 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
I first heard about Thy Neighbor’s Wife when watching Netflix’s Voyeur, a documentary about author Gay Talese and a man who’d bought a motel solely so he could peep on the activities of those renting rooms. I found Voyeur fascinating, and so when I came across this on offer, I thought I’d give it a go.

Thy Neighbor’s Wife is a big, fat book, delving into the sexual mores of the American public, and the efforts of lawmakers to govern these, from the mid-twentieth century up until the seventies (before the/>Thy
Ansel Hsu
Mar 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: must-read
According to the Existentialism, we are actually living in a land with all the construction built by human itself rather than God or any other supernatural entities. However, anyone bored in a specific cultural context in specific families, provinces, countries and continents with the specific geographic environment and so-called established civilisation. While the humanists are like mathematicians tend to dig the truth of humans and the pure morality harboured by physical bodies, Existentialist ...more
Feb 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
A biased, lop-sided review of the early years of pornography and nudism that is grossly over-praised. Talese is completely subjective throughout the book, failing to meet his own standard of objective journalism. There is way too much about Hugh Hefner, a few stories about "everyday" people that sound completely abnormal, and a ridiculous section near the end where the author goes to massage parlors and a nudist camp (all in the name of "research"). This really comes across as a middle-aged horn ...more
Sean Goh
Nov 01, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Long, lengthy, and dry at times (especially the couple chapters on court decisions on pornography and such). First half reads better than the second half. Tends to meander, so settle down before you start reading it.
Barbara: Most married people had "ownership problems". They wanted to totally possess their spouse, to expect monogamy, and if one partner admitted an infidelity to the other it would most likely be interpreted as a sign of a deteriorating marriage. But this was absurd
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Author mentions in the end that lot of people were disappointed when they found out that book is not a piece of erotic fiction rather it was a journalistic work.

I was led to this book by Amazon recommendation when i thought of purchasing sex at dawn. I started the book out of curiosity and it did not disappoint. It outlines several landmark judgements which were key for distribution of erotic literature and freedom for artistic expression of sexual content in the books/movies. It also tells the
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Gay Talese is an American author. He wrote for The New York Times in the early 1960s and helped to define literary journalism or "new nonfiction reportage", also known as New Journalism. His most famous articles are about Joe DiMaggio, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.
“Unlike the millions who casually masturbate in solitude while looking at girlie pictures in Playboy and similar magazines, the massage man preferred an accomplice, an attendant lady of respectable appearance who would help him reduce the guilt and loneliness of this most lonely act of love.” 7 likes
“While the moral force of Judeo-Christian tradition and the law have sought to purify the penis, and to restrict its seed to the sanctified institution of matrimony, the penis is not by nature a monogamous organ. It knows no moral code. It was designed by nature for waste, it craves variety, and nothing less than castration will eliminate the allure of prostitution, fornication adultery, or pornography.” 7 likes
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