Open Fidelity

The other book I got in my recent order from Amazon was Open Fidelity: An A-Z Guide, by Anna Sharman. I bought the book after being made aware of it’s existence by the author on a discussion list on which we’re both members. It’s cheaper to buy direct from her website, and an e-book version is available for just £3, but I had an Amazon voucher that was burning a hole in my pocket, and an order that was only a few pounds from Super Saver delivery!

It’s not in competition with The Ethical Slut (my review), by any stretch of the imagination. At 36 pages long, it’s no good as a paperweight. However, it is good for what I bought it for – providing a five-minute introduction to open relationships to those people who seem to be confused by the concept ("Look, just read this…").

As you might expect from the name, the book takes each letter of the alphabet and writes a little about it. N… is for Negotiation, J… is for Jealousy, W… is for weddings, and so on. In addition, is if it’s pretending to be some kind of encyclopædia, each page ends with "you might also have meant"-style suggestions, which are sometimes serious but as often tongue-in-cheek: "O is also for… Over – see E for Ending Relationships, and Out – see P for going Public."

And some bits of it are really good: D (Defending your relationship), L (Love), and M (Monogamy) are all particularly well-written and thought-provoking. Considering that what I thought I was buying was a coffee-table conversation-starter (and it is that!), I ended up taking more from the book than I expected. Other bits are silly, in particular Z (Zzzzz), but never too silly to be useless. There are bits that don’t feel like they have any relevance to me: G (God), R (Rings), and W (Weddings), in particular, and in a 36-page book for £4, I almost feel as if I should get better value for money… those three pages are worth… what… almost 35 pence!

There’s a set of quotes in the middle of the book, and a little before the middle of the alphabet (I’d have thought that Anna would have put it after Q, to save herself a letter, but no, she’d saved that for Queer Relationships, which I’m not entirely sure justified a page of it’s own). They’re okay, but there’s nothing mind-blowingly clever in there.

Anna’s planing to work on three more books. The most obvious one is Open Fidelity: the Complete Guide, which will presumably be a less concise version of this book, with more emphasis on how-tos and stuff, which I’m sure will have value to some, but I doubt there’s anything new to somebody who’s succesfully practiced non-monogamy. The second is Open Fidelity and Bisexuality. This is a book that probably really does need to be written: there are many bisexual people or otherwise bi-inclined people unfulfilled by their monogamous relationships with one or the other gender. There are plenty more who are quite happy with that arrangement, of course, but there’s nonetheless probably a lot less market for a book about how to be a monogamous bisexual.

The third book Anna’s planning is the one that interests me the most, even though it’s the one that applies least to me, and it’s just because it’s a book who’s title you might never expect to see. The title is Open Fidelity: a Quaker Perspective. Yup, you read that right. I’ll be fascinated to see what she comes up with for that.

As usual with the books I review, this’ll be sat around in the living room at The Cottage for some time to come, for anybody who fancies a flick.

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