Books by Susan Spano

MEN ON DIVORCE by Penny Kaganoff
Released: Feb. 21, 1997

Presented as a counterpart to the editors' previous volume, Women on Divorce (which will be reissued in paperback simultaneously with this hardcover publication), here are 15 entirely disparate takes by men, among them Edward Hoagland and Stephen Dobyns. Nearly all the contributors lay claim to suffering, some to real learning. For Ted Solotaroff, ``Getting the Point'' meant doing more than just getting on with life, as men are trained to do; he manages to sound becomingly self-aware (``She had to deal with the isolation of the single woman while I had only to pick up the phone to become an available man''), rather than platitudinously self-conscious, as the flagellations of the younger set do. The most writerly voice belongs to John A. Williams, who left his family despite his promising upward mobility in post-GI- bill Syracuse and his vow that he'd never do what his father did, because he yearned for something ``audacious'' in life: The ``compulsion to leave was greater than the will to stay.'' Almost half the contributors cite what their parents did as influential: Benjamin Cheever blames his dad's drinking for his early impulse to marry (and his dad's quitting, whereupon he could go home again, for his impulse to divorce); Luis Rodriguez roots his addictions and abusive rages in his family's emigration from Mexico and their ensuing marginalization in L.A.; Walter Kirn, whose parents didn't break up until after he himself was married, confirms that ``when the rug is pulled out from under you emotionally, it isn't necessarily an advantage to be standing on your own two feet.'' Divorce registers differently in Italy, per Tim Parks's chronicle of a friend's intoxicating affair, and in Japan, where self- fulfillment American style doesn't come easily, as Richard Gilman and his current wife discovered at great cost. But self-examination is the same everywhere, as these essays too often attest. (First serial to the New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, Redbook) Read full book review >
WOMEN ON DIVORCE by Penny Kaganoff
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

D-I-V-O-R-C-E. If Tammy Wynette left you aching for more on the subject, turn to this highbrow literary collection of 14 essays by survivors and observers of what one contributor likes to think of as a ``spectator sport.'' Embracing the public aspect of modern American divorce, the women writers represented in this collection (among them Carol Shields, Francine Prose, and Ellen Gilchrist) share their personal experiences as current or soon-to-be divorcÇes. The undivorced offer their observations on the divorces that orbit their own marriages like potentially deadly satellites from another planet. Several Jewish women are forced to obtain a get (a Jewish divorce), whose ``archaic ritual proves more debilitating than the antiseptic American version.'' A Catholic writer, Ann Patchett, vividly recounts her shock at coming face to face with the reality of the indissoluble Catholic marriage. Her essay ends with a confession of her dreams of institutionalized forgiveness in ``an eighth sacrament, the sacrament of divorce.'' It is unfortunate that the editors (Kaganoff, a former editor of Kirkus, is currently a senior editor at Simon & Schuster; Spano writes a travel column for the New York Times) did not break free from their generally narrow group of contributors whose rÇsumÇs echo one another; testimony from Muslim or Hindu women would have added fresh perspectives. Interestingly, several points recur from essay to essay. The writers fear that divorced people may be doomed to repeat their mistakes (``Between them my two brothers have married five women who look like my mother''). There is a consensus of sorts that romantic love has led these women astray. Among the most interesting is the opinion of several writers that arranged marriages might be the best solution to the question of finding a mate. These are disillusioned women. True to its subtitle, this reads like a chatty, intimate, and frank conversation among women. If half your mattress is empty, take this book to bed. (First serial to Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Mirabella, Redbook) Read full book review >