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The Stepford Wives: 12/03/06
Ira Levin's Stepford Wives, a story that has inspired two films and entered the lexicon is little more than a long novella. It comes in around 30,000 words and therefore wouldn't even qualify for a winning Nanowrimo entry. It's the sort of thriller where no words are wasted; the narrative is more like a transcript of someone telling a story than a well crafted narration. It can be read in about ninety minutes and even with knowing the punchline (or being able to figure it out) it is still a very satisfying read.
I love Levin's books. They are in my "go-to" pile when I need something both creepy and humorous at the same time. My husband says the book doesn't seem plausible (probably because he's so much like the geeks who turn against their wives). His main complaint is: "If they had the sex bots at the club, doesn't it seem superfluous to off their wives at home?" But that's part of the book's cheesy charm. Only one family per month ever moves into Stepford, so clearly the men are being recruited. They want to replace their wives long before they come to Stepford.
The edition I read ends with a short essay by Peter Straub who analyzes the book's origins against the time when it was written when Betty Friedan's The Feminist Mystique was nine years old and probably owned by most twenty to thirty-something women and the equal rights amendment had passed congress only to be stalled in the state ratification process (though its looking like it might now be poised to pass). Was Levin writing a social satire akin to Swift's A Modest Proposal or was he writing a parody of the NOW movement? Yes. I think that the news of the day (the opening of Disney World, ERA, the closing of the space race, etc) came together to inspire a story that was fun to write and now fun to read. That it inspires discussion: all the better.