More landmass than boat

September 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’ve only just now begun reading Stanley Elkin’s George Mills (thoroughly enjoying it, I might add), but I think I will make room & time to read along side it a work I only just recently discovered: Stanley Crawford’s, Log of the S.S. The Mrs Unguentine. Ben Marcus’ description goes some distance in explaining why:

Architectural dreamwork, end-times seascapes so barren they seem cut from the pages of the Bible, coolly-rendered Rube Goldberg apparati, and the crushing sadness that results when you tie your emotional fortunes to a person whose tongue is so fat in his mouth he can barely speak, mark this little masterpiece of a novel. Cast as a soliloquy in the form of a ship’s log, a grief report from someone who has no good insurance she will ever be heard, the novel moves fluidly between its major forms: love song, a treatise on gardening at sea, an argument against the company of others, and a dark science expo for exquisite inventions like a hybrid lichen that makes things invisible. . . .

This may have been the first time that readers could sample a collision of such radically different literary sensibilities as Ingmar Bergman and Jules Verne: the bleak, life-loathing (affirming, loathing, affirming, who knows anymore) sensibility of the great artist of domestic cruelty, Bergman, with the wondrous vision and spectacle of Verne, the adventure story mad scientist. Call it Scenes from a Marriage on a Mysterious Island, because The Mrs Unguentine is more landmass than boat, a garden of Eden with very little joy and not one dose of shame, where the only solution to the endless pain of love is to hurl oneself overboard, which Mr. Unguentine does, only to keep courting his woman from the deeps, or from the dead, it isn’t really clear. Faking his own death just to reset the romance and return to courting? Colossally cruel or intensely romantic, or maybe both?

I hope to have more of my own words to say of it soon.

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