cover image The Use of Fame

The Use of Fame

Cornelia Nixon. Counterpoint (PGW, dist.), $26 (240p) ISBN 978-1-61902-949-1

Nixon’s (Angels Go Naked) fourth novel follows the electricity and heartbreak of the bicoastal marriage of two teachers and poets. Ray, 52, and Abby, 60, have been married for 25 years, and they have beaten the odds and remained close through time. Ray teaches part-time at Brown while Abby holds a full-time position at Berkeley. Ray has fallen in love with one of his former grad students, Tory, but he is afraid that giving up Abby would destroy him. Their commuter marriage allows them to miss each other, but it also means less time to deal with issues in their relationship. When Abby learns of Ray’s feelings for Tory, she wonders whether her neediness has driven him into another woman’s arms, while Ray has been feeling that Abby is neglecting their relationship. Neither seems to be a whole person alone. They try to stay together, even planning to move together to Miami when Ray is offered a job there, but their plan never comes to fruition. As time wears on, Abby deals with financial problems, and Ray with continuing health problems and questions about his recent life changes. The reality of trying to make love last is shown with poise and grace, and all the situation’s complexity nuance rings true in Nixon’s honest prose and nuanced characters. (May)