4 Followers
25 Following
localcharacter

localcharacter

Divorcer

Divorcer - Gary Lutz Gary Lutz comes up often as one of the most important "new" writers out there, pushing the boundaries of what we expect fiction to do, etc. etc. Specifically, he's praised for his sentences, which absolutely never take the turns you expect. So I had to find out for myself.And it's true: The story "Middleton" begins: "For one reason or another my wife, a baby-talking, all but uninterpreted woman only a couple of years older than I, died in one of those commuter-plane crashes that reporters were never sure what to do about. It happened on a day when the third of three famous people in a row had finally died, in this case some moody entertainer, and no one aboard the plane could have been anything other than worn out and morbid to begin with, and anyway my wife was not even a commuter: she had been flying across state to visit a stepsister, somebody more sturdy, who had taken sick after some apparently recreational uncertainty about a newly glued upper tooth."What's going on here? The rules of grammar are more or less followed, but this is more than a fine-tuned plunge into Markov chains. There's a narrative, a character, a voice. Lutz extracts the unspoken-but-more-accurate adjective from the tip of his character's tongue, but he (the author-function Lutz, or the narrator?) is also playing with sound (the sturdy stepsister, the newly glued tooth). The cultural context (plane crashes, celebrity deaths) is subject to unbelief, but a kind of participatory unbelief, an attached irony: you cannot touch that dial. A big part of the story this voice is telling is the voice that is telling the story.But is it really a story? The seven pieces in Divorcer are all about failed relationships, all told in the first person (though some as a woman, some as a man, some straight, some gay), all in the literary past tense. I don't think there are seven distinct characters or voices, though. In the middle of "I Have to Feel Halved" we get the sentence: "He was laid up the while I knew him, but his symptoms lacked a guiding disease." Again it's the too-accurately-deployed lumpen speech, again it's the cable-channel POV. I forget what gender made that sentence, and the sentence won't tell me.Words near the end of "Womanesque" disclose Lutz's sidelong explanation: "These days, I launder anything before I say it. I make sure there's something still sudsing between the words." The book's title might suggest it will help a reader understand how human relationships end, but these characters and their relationships are simply material for laundering, occasions for sentences. Things stick together or bubble up unexpectedly in life as in language, and divorces are as good a situation as any and better than most for making that point. But the point is mostly about the language, not the life.