In yet another attempt to piece together the puzzle of his life, Ray Powell, a veteran of the self-help and recovery movements, joins a men's group designed for each member to re-experience his "primal story," the single great mythic journey in his life where all truths are revealed.
Upon hearing about the suicide of a friend he hadn't seen in years, Ray realizes that one very strange nine-month period-during the post-free love/pre-AIDS early '80s when the battling in the sexual revolution was perhaps at its fiercest-may hold the key to the mystery of his journey as a man.
His primal story begins on the morning after John Lennon was shot when the love of his life leaves town with a pizza delivery boy. Crushed and alone, Ray, then a 34-year-old teacher-finds himself falling for a 17-year-old girl and hanging out with his three bachelor buddies, including the one who later committed suicide, as they hit the singles bars and war with feminist groups
"Lonely, single men search for love in the 1980s in this hilarious battle narrative from the war between the sexes.
Ronald Reagan has just been elected president, John Lennon has just been shot and 34-year-old Ray Powell has just been dumped by fickle hippie goddess Lana in a definitive finale to the sexual golden age of the countercultural -70s. Seeking a fresh start, he moves from the college-town Shangri-la of Crystal City to nearby Toledo, Ohio, to teach high school and find another woman.
Alas, Ray, who prides himself on his male feminism, is at sea in a new sexual ethos that values assertiveness and earning power over sensitivity. He finds nothing but cynicism and tawdry hookups in the circle of hell that is the Toledo singles’scene, and the few women he connects with—such as Judy, a 17-year-old student with whom he strikes up an awkward romance—prove resoundingly inappropriate.
Tragically, he gets plenty of advice from his bachelor buddies: Scott, an eternal student with a yen for tall, domineering women; Frank, a newly celibate ladies’man who now considers sex a “holocaust”; and the permanently lovelorn Bert, whose idea of a smooth come-on is to surprise his inamorata by removing his clothes and draping a towel over his face. When all else fails, the Zen bromides he gleans from Kung Fu reruns—”Male and female are like coal and flame”—guide his steps. Durstin writes in a wonderfully observant prose that’s sardonic and sympathetic, with a perfect ear for the cultural obsessions of the early Reagan era. He frames Ray’s story as a mythic “journey” that affords the author a sly parody of the Men’s Movement. As they respond to a chaos of mixed messages in a profoundly confused age, his characters’ delusions—and their fumbling, convoluted pickup maneuvers—are as poignant as they are uproarious.
A wickedly funny send-up of the sexual revolution and its discontents.”
From PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
“While satirizing what he sees as the simplicity of the men’s movement, Durstin puts a rounded spin on changing gender roles, relationship woes and male neuroses in this biting, black comic debut novel. Prompted by the suicide of an old buddy and the prodding of his men’s group, ‘Male Myths: a Journey,’ Ray Powell, the middle-aged and hyper-analytical narrator recounts what is to be, in the parlance of his group, his ‘primal story.’
In the fictional northern Ohio college town of Crystal City in the early 1980s, before AIDS made sex scary but well after the free-love days, Ray's longtime lover, Lana, runs off with a pizza delivery boy. Hurt and bewildered, Ray falls in with three bachelor friends even more battle-scarred and dysfunctional than he, each overflowing with elaborate opinions and techniques to employ in the battle of the sexes. Ray, working as a high school teacher, takes his own path, falling awkwardly in love with a pretty 17-year-old student.
Durstin uses the men's group as a frame for Ray's story and packs his narrative with satirical shots at the recriminations and oversimplifications of men and women alike, as well as their organized soul-searching movements. Ray's buddies are entertainingly hard cases and Durstin creates darkly humorous suspense as the reader wonders which of them is the suicide victim mentioned at the very start of the book.