Two Marriages: Novellas

Philip Lopate, Author . Other Press $24.95 (264p) ISBN 978-1-59051-298-2

While best known for his engaging personal essay collections (Being with Children , etc.), Lopate is also the author of two novels (including The Rug Merchant ); here he turns in a pair of lively novellas. Taking the form of a self-conscious diary, “The Stoic's Marriage” opens as Gordon, a pretentious intellectual, records the perfection of his marriage to Rita, a former home aide from the Philippines. When her relatives arrive unexpectedly, his postures of generosity toward his wife's family make his farcical unreliability as a narrator abundantly clear. “Eleanor, or, The Second Marriage” offers a bird's-eye view of a middle-aged couple's bourgeois complacency as they host a party, complete with gourmet food, a Charlie Chaplin screening (from real film, natch) and urbane banter. The characters seem pulled from a lifestyle issue of New York magazine, and a shattering secret, when revealed, doesn't have much to push against—but that's Lopate's point. The novella form tends to work against these tales, which feel like underdeveloped novels, but Lopate gets in some good jabs at the chattering classes. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 06/23/2008
Release date: 09/01/2008
Genre: Fiction
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