A LETTER TO MY WIFE by John Koffend


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In 1950 John and Ann Koffend were married, later John had a serious affair, left Ann, and in 1969 she divorced him. Typical marital unsuccess story. Six months later, Koffend, a $30,000 a-year-man at Time magazine (editor, reviewer, sometime ""Behavior"" section writer), was living in a one-room apartment in White Plains, sans house in Westchester and children, paying alimony, missing (loving?) Ann, very lonely, dissatisfied, tired of New York and Time, and dreaming of a new life (escape?) a la Gauguin in Pago Pago. At age 53. His letter to his wife relates all of this and more -- his reliance alternatively on popping Valium and drinking to get to sleep; visits to his shrink whose psychological evaluation (""passive-aggressive personality, with paranoid, depressive, and withdrawal features"") is included here along with the divorce and separation papers; casual sex foreplay and impotence and his worry about both (for a long time he couldn't make it with his wife either); ""campaigns"" to exercise more and smoke less (""my lungs are a ghetto""); Herzogian bouts with intellectual inertia; inability to cope with the simple necessities of clean laundry and reasonable eating habits; thoughts of suicide -- ""but I know I'll never do it""; and always his wife and attempts to understand what went wrong -- ""What was my crime? That I walked like a fairy, as you once said, with three martinis under my belt? That I beat the children? That I burned down a house, like a friend of mine did? What was my crime?"" And what does this mean? Is this revelatory letter meant to pass for the sociology of the divorced American male? Or is it simply the painful record of a middle-aged man's post-conjugal blues? Koffend doesn't say, and although by the time he gets to the closing he's in American Samoa (no happier than Gauguin was in Tahiti), he is still too close to the experience to offer a valid perspective.

Pub Date: April 10th, 1972
Publisher: Saturday Review Press