tee's Reviews > Vacation

Vacation by Deb Olin Unferth
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Mar 16, 10

bookshelves: i-own
Recommended to tee by: Oriana Leckert
Read in February, 2010 — I own a copy

I was sufficiently intrigued by this book. It had that little something that kept me turning the pages, it invoked curiosity, it was strange as fuck. It was published by McSweeney's, so I was biased before I even started - the gorgeous hard cover added to the tingling in my pants. It's wide girth, perfect crisp print, pleasing spacing on the sides of the pages; visually, it was stimulating. Once the words travelled through my eyeballs and hit the optic disc, travelled through the optic nerve and registered in my brain - well that's where things weren't as fabulous. But still pretty darned good.

Unferth has a interesting way of writing, as trite as that sounds; and also, she read as somewhat masculine. The only reason I say this, is I kept envisioning a male author behind the helm. Not that it matters either way, but it kept taking me aback. I just googled her photo just to check for any transgenderism. Okay, I'm off on a tangent already, but her writing is strange and I'm not able to explain what I mean exactly. So for now, let's just blame it on gender-confusion. Which is my issue, no-one elses. And not really an issue, per se, just an aside because I can't seem to write reviews without being completely fucking ridiculous about things.

I do so love Unferth's descriptions, "a strip of a woman and her tiny, mittened girl." I want to eat that sentence. Another:- "She hadn't been raised by warm people. Her father had a phony laugh. Her mother was prim, airtight, walked around looking cheated. The two of them appeared every other season, perched on their seats as if slightly offended by their surroundings and who was in them, and then melted back into the Midwest."

If you write fiction yourself, you'll find Unferth's unique way of writing tainting your own style. Short choppy sentence, brief paragraphs, lack of inverted commas for speech - I enjoyed all of this. The thoughts in my head started to take on her style. It was one of those books that affects the way you see your life, while you're reading it. You look up and things are tangerine-hazed, and a little off-centre. I think I like her as a person too, which always helps - reading through an interview on bookslut with Unferth, she says, "I think what drives me the most are desire and fear. I think: I want to write this book. I can see it in my mind, it's perfectly formed, the structure is sound. It's like an apple, it's like something in nature. Why can't I get it to look the same on the page? Why? So bewilderment is part of it too, I guess. And stubbornness." I can indentify with that. So much.

Finishing up her interview, she says, "Each morning I woke up and said, I have to write this or I will die. It's strange because I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have died but that's what it felt like. I just wanted to write it so badly. I felt like it was a long song with lots of parts and I wanted to hear what it would sound like if I could get all the parts where they belonged. I hope they are mostly where they belong now."

I'm glad Unferth didn't die, and that this book was written - it was so different from the norm - although, disjointed and odd. It's the kind of book I struggle recommending to people because you'll either think it's complete bullshit, or you'll love it's playfulness. I'll leave you with a few more underlined quotes.

"She stopped, sat on a bench on the loudest corner the earth had ever known. A catastrophe of buses and drillings, the dash of the taxi, the rush and halt, the tamping down of the cement, the suck of air in, the press of it out, the slow sink of the city, the spread of tar, the lifting of it, the footsteps going through, the out and out of breaths."

And perhaps my favourite, "His rage was a saw, going back and forth, cutting through arteries, hers."

Mmmm, delicious.
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Oriana If you write fiction yourself, you'll find Unferth's unique way of writing tainting your own style. The thoughts in my head started to take on her style. It was one of those books that affects the way you see your life, while you're reading it. You look up and things are tangerine-hazed, and a little off-centre.

Yes yes YES. This totally happened to me too. So glad you liked this one!


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