For Fidelity: How Intimacy and Commitment Enrich Our Lives, by Catherine M. Wallace (Alfred A. Knopf, 172 pp.; $22, hardcover). Reviewed by John Wilson.
The uncanny timing of the movie Wag the Dog, which was released just before the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, occasioned a good deal of comment. (The New Yorker summarizes the film thus: "President, in closing weeks of re'lection campaign, succumbs to zipper problem; spin doctor, to divert attention, simulates war with Albania.") There must also have been some discreet celebration in the halls of Alfred A. Knopf at the timing of For Fidelity: How Intimacy and Commitment Enrich Our Lives, published at the end of February. If you are dissatisfied with editorials and columns and other vehicles for hit-and-run punditry, you will find in Wallace's book a thoughtful and thought-provoking argument for sexual fidelity.
A onetime professor of English at Northwestern University with a specialty in literary theory, Wallace—as the flap copy informs us—"set aside her scholarly career … to stay home full-time with newborn twins and a two-year-old, all three of whom are now in high school." In addition to full-time child-rearing, she has obviously continued to read omnivorously; her case for fidelity draws on sources as various as the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, as well as on her own experience as a young girl, a teenager, and a wife and mother, all set in the context of her strong Christian faith.
It is a shame, then, that very early on, Wallace makes a move that immediately narrows her audience. In the first chapter, right after she affirms that "sexual fidelity is a practice intrinsic to the happiness of a happy marriage," Wallace ...1
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