Synopses & Reviews
We've all felt the giddy flutter of excitement when our new lover walks into the room. Waited by the phone, changed our plans...But are we in love, or is there something darker at work? In Desire: Where Sex Meets Addiction
, Susan Cheever explores the shifting boundaries between the feelings of passion and addiction, desire and need, and she raises provocative and important questions about who we love and why.
Elegantly written and thoughtfully composed, Cheever's book combines unsparing and intimate memoir, interviews and stories, hard science and psychology to explore the difference between falling in love and falling prey to an addiction. Part one defines what addiction is and how it works — the obsession, the betrayals, the broken promises to oneself and others. Part two explores the possible causes of addiction — is it nature or nurture, a permanent condition or a temporary derangement? Part three considers what we can do about it, including a provocative suggestion about how we describe and treat addiction, and a look at the importance of community and storytelling.
In the end, there are no easy answers. "A straight look about some crooked feelings," Desire shows us the difference between the addiction that cripples our emotions, and healthy, empowering love that enhances our lives.
"'We are a nation of puritanical love junkies,' proclaims Cheever (My Name Is Bill) in her inquiry into the growing scientific and psychological evidence that suggests a chemical basis for sex addiction. Drawing on a hodge-podge of addiction literature, neurobiological studies and her more informal (but most persuasive) role as a seasoned battler of her own obsessions, Cheever believes that American idealism taints our expectations of relationships: 'In our world, addiction to other people... is the only addiction that is applauded and embraced.... ' But for Cheever, a lover's destructive behavior can be just as traumatizing as that of an alcoholic, a bulimic or a compulsive gambler. Cheever is best when writing personally; her candid memories of emotionally abusive parents, repeated adultery and consuming love drive an otherwise meandering text. Her cultural subjects are titillating enough and range from the voyeurism of To Catch a Predator to speculation that Bill Wilson, founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, struggled to hide a sex addiction. But the reader strains to connect slim narrative threads of this unstructured meditation on obsession." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[N]ot so much a nitty-gritty tell-all as it is a series of free-form musings on what addiction is and why it affects people so powerfully....Insightful and often engaging, but also aimless and occasionally trite." Kirkus Reviews
"[P]rovocative and deeply personal....Such clinical investigation...is secondary to the intimate revelations Cheever shares about her own troubled past and addictive behavior." Booklist
Cheever presents an intimate, provocative meditation on love, sex, and addiction; explores the boundaries between passion and addiction, desire and need; and raises important questions about how people love and why.
About the Author
Susan Cheever is the bestselling author of eleven previous books, including five novels and the memoirs Note Found in a Bottle and Home Before Dark. Her work has been nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award and won the Boston Globe Winship Medal. She is a Guggenheim Fellow, a member of the Corporation of Yaddo, and a member of the Author's Guild Council. She writes a weekly column for Newsday and teaches in the Bennington College M.F.A. program. She lives in New York City with her family.
Table of Contents
part one: what is it?
The Bride, the Groom, and the Dog 3
The Broken Promise 9
Bill Wilson 21
Abusers vs. Addicts 35
The Brain 43
Trance and Obsession 51
Tolerance and Shame 63
part two: what causes it?
The Body 93
Old Age Is a New Thing 103
Is Sex Addiction the Male Version of Female Bulimia? 113
All of the Above 119
part three: what can we do about it?
Let's Change the Way We Describe Addiction 127
A Community of One 135
How Others Tell the Story 153
Conscience and Remorse 159
The Dog Again 165