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Take my wifeWhos Sorry NowHoward JacobsonCape 1699 pp325The perils and pitfalls of lunching at length in Soho are many but for Marvin Kreitman and Charlie Merriweather a Montecello-fuelled marathon that spills over into supper - their last in many ways - and ends in St Thomass AE some 14 hours later has life-altering effectsKreitman and Charlie are middle-aged men with nothing much except themselves to worry about and as different as two comic archetypes could be Kreitman is dark Jewish and squishy-hearted a former Casanova of University College who long ago abandoned postgraduate research to take up his fathers mantle as the luggage baron of south LondonPurses are Kreitmans business and he joyously exemplifies every Elizabethan double entendre and Freudian footnote passing his days in an erotic haze in pursuit of his lifes other business women and sex Besides his wife his daughters and his mother Kreitman loves - at the last count - five more women including the mother of his wifes interior designers ex-husbandCharlie meanwhile is a pink-and-white type hobbled by prep-school put-downs and still daydreaming about legs and nipples even after almost a quarter of a century of wedded bliss Charlies wife is Charlie Chas a romping giantess in a spinnaker skirt and together they write childrens books valiantly battling the return of lower-middle-class magic But even fidelity has its fatalities and Charlie it seems is simply dying of nice sex reduced to ogling teenage waitresses and beaming at any woman wholl meet his gazeThe question neither has dared ask until now is this which man is unhappier he who stays home for nice sex or he who keeps a woman above every bag shop south of the river Not exactly Descartes but for post-Viagra manhood the answer must be of more than passing interest To Charlies sozzled Seventies mind the only solution is a wife swap and no sooner has the idea taken root than a Lycra-clad cycle courier named Nyman
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