Tuesday, November 23, 2010

eighty

Log of the S.S. the Mrs. Unguentine



From the jacket:

"Forty years ago I first linked up with Unguentine and we made love on twin-hulled catamarans, sails a-billow, bless the seas... So begins the courtship of a certain Unguentine to the woman we know only as Mrs. Unguentine, the chronicler of their sad, fantastical tale. For forty years, they sail the seas together, alone on a giant land-covered barge of their own devising. They tend their gardens, raise a child, invent an artificial forest--all the while steering clear of civilization. Log of the S.S. The Mrs Unguentine is a masterpiece of modern domestic life, a comic novel of closeness and difficulty, miscommunication and stubborn resolve. Rarely has a book so perfectly registered the secret solitude of marriage, how shared loneliness can result in a powerful bond."

This is a weird, short book about marriage. It's a bad marriage on the surface, but comfortable in its ways. It's told through allegory - this awesome fantastical barge that is essentially a steerable island. The lonesomeness of marriage is made physical, the focus on the day-to-day, the miscommunication, the love, the ability to ignore huge things to keep your existence moving forward. You're literally on an island, with the outside world nowhere to be seen, and your routine, though it changes, is what you rely on to keep your sanity. You pass notes to your spouse without talking to them, though you love each other. Sometimes when I'm working long hours at my job and barely see my wife except briefly at night and in the mornings, and mainly exchange information through email and IM, this portrait rings true. It took a few dozen pages to get used to the flow of the narrative, and then you're almost halfway done with the book. I think I'll be casting my memory back to this book for quite some time. Kudos.

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