MJ Nicholls's Reviews > An Adultery

An Adultery by Alexander Theroux
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's review
Jul 22, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: novels, merkins, tortured-artists

This is a novel about that fourth girlfriend of yours, the one you had before you settled down with the woman you are convinced you love (all evidence points to love, you quarrel only monthly, you are only mildly displeased when it’s her on the phone), who you only learned three months into the relationship was married with two children, a parrot, a canary, and her own independent restaurant chain specialising in coypu dishes. The woman who phoned you at three a.m. to tell you she preferred Worcester sauce to mayo, who only liked making love in the utility closet at your parents’ house, who would burst into tears if she spotted an upturned tack lying on the carpet because it reminded her of childhood tacking carpets with her papa in Wisconsin before the flood swept all her belongings and little brother Timmy away. The woman you still love, despite her having eloped with a kangaroo trapper in the Australian outback, put on twenty pounds, and developed a mescaline addiction to embarrass Syd Barrett. It’s not your fault, we have no say in the matter.

Theroux’s equivalent is named Farol and his novel is a Perecian “attempt to exhaust an adultery,” running at 396 pages of marathon-strength first-person analysis of the narrator’s relationship with his erratic, shambolic disaster of an on/off lover. Comparisons are drawn by the blurbers with Flaubert and James, and the novel is rather like listening in on James’s conversations with his therapist as he drones on with unimpeachable eloquence about every nuance of his present relationship. For me, the book exhausts itself around the three-hundred page mark, where I skipped to the end towards the inevitable, downbeat conclusion. Otherwise the novel was in danger of lapsing into extreme tedium and silliness through excess. Theroux’s attempt to exhaust each and every nuance of this topic, rendered in extremely stylish, lyrical and bilious prose, also serves to put the topic of adultery in American letters to bed, perhaps partly his ambition too. Otherwise, a remarkably accomplished solo performance, perfect for those who agree “character is plot.” [With my sincere apologies to Mr. T for pages 300-386. In another life, maybe].
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Reading Progress

July 18, 2012 – Started Reading
July 20, 2012 –
page 210
51.72% "This is, um, what's the word . . . claustrophobic."
July 22, 2012 – Shelved
July 22, 2012 – Shelved as: novels
July 22, 2012 – Shelved as: merkins
July 22, 2012 – Shelved as: tortured-artists
July 22, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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message 1: by Shovelmonkey1 (new)

Shovelmonkey1 Witty, wordy, weird. As always.

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