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This page is the original source of this review, though you may also find it on Amazon or other sites.

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Book Review of: Lust in Translation

Infidelity from Tokyo to Tennessee

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Review of Lust in Translation by Pamela Druckerman (Softcover, 2008)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)

Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.

If you wanted to understand the amount of infidelity in various cultures (including your own) and how people in those cultures view infidelity, where would you look for the information? As the author points out, there are few surveys on this topic. Of those that exist, the reliability of the information is somewhere between poor and zero.

With its track record, we can't trust the US federal government for accurate information. You may recall that we were bombarded with "compelling evidence" of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq by the Clinton administration, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and other prominent Democrats prior to Bush's entry to the White House. Then, the Republicans bombarded us with these same "facts." Yet, here we are in 2008--more than ten years later--and those WMDs still haven't been found.

Similarly, the IRS has released one bogus report after another about the "tax gap" that allegedly exists. But the average American has more debt than cash. The fact the IRS reports defy logic doesn't bother the IRS or our free-spending Congress that has mismanaged things so badly we have a $9 trillion debt that is growing by more than half a billion dollars a day (in March, 2008).

So, we can't go to the government for reliable information.

Nobody has come forth to fund a study to determine the extent of infidelity. What would be the purpose? Perhaps divorce lawyers will someday band together to fund this, but currently they get plenty of work without such a project.

This leaves us with investigative reporting, which is what Druckerman did. Throughout her book, she talks about the various barriers she found in obtaining accurate information or access at all. Thus, by her own accounts, we need to take her findings with the proverbial grain of salt. I don't think she would argue with that point, and that point does not invalidate her book.

In addition to gleaning some insight into the differing mores of various cultures regarding the issue of fidelity, we also see how these cultures handle communicating with outsiders. That in itself is valuable. For example, the Japanese and the French have entirely different ideas about speaking to Americans regarding their society.

Part of the problem Druckerman faced was she traveled to those countries and hired human interpreters to communicate between her and her interlocuters or interviewees. This begs the question, "Did these interpreters filter communication through their own agendas?" Given human nature, the answer is yes. She would have had more success had she used a pocket electronic translator such as the iTravl device.

Another part of the problem Druckerman faced was she was asking people very personal questions, and those people didn't know her. Thus, there is an element of trust that, by missing, undermined her findings. Add to this the typical "tell them what they want to hear" mentality people have (they want to please the folks who interview them--this is a documented phenomenon), and things get even murkier.

Despite this, she found significant differences based on the geography, economic status, and/or social status of the people she contacted. These patterns were fairly consistent within each demographic. Granted, she wasn't polling a representative sample or a statistically adequate sample in terms of size, but then again she didn't present this 293-page book (in small paperback format) as a doctoral thesis up for peer review among sociologists. Such a document would put most of us asleep within minutes, anyhow, so let's give a sigh of relief that this isn't what she decided to write.

Lust in Translation does not purport to be a scholarly work. It's a book that provides an overview. Druckerman approached it with openness and enthusiasm, both of which show through in her writing. So what we gain from this book isn't new scientific analysis of various cultures, but an entertaining look outside our own sandbox.

This page is the original source of this review, though you may also find it on Amazon or other sites.

Book Reviews Home   Free Audio Books



About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or no substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably 20,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree and an MBA, among other "quant" degrees. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.

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