Baumbach's tenth book (The Life and Times of Major Fiction, 1987, etc.)--about the deteriorating marriage of two psychotherapists in New York--is a head-on satire about malaise among the intelligentsia, as well as a moving look at a couple trapped by professional jargon, unable to relate on anything but an ""I-it"" level. Yuri and Adrienne Tipton have a postmodern marriage; chapter titles (""The Structure of Behavior,"" ""The Divided Self,"" ""The Psychopathology of Everyday Life,"" etc.), along with an alternating point of view, give the narrative a slickness that complements the alienation. Yuri begins with the observation that ""the aetiology of my condition was arrogance,"" then adds that ""My sanity has been thrown into question by Adrienne's opposing version of our shared reality."" There is also the usual Baumbach fun-house destruction, though here it's appropriate; with Yuri's memories ""altered by revisionist feelings,"" he realizes ""how selective this document is, how much it leaves out."" Meanwhile, both Yuri and Adrienne have affairs with former patients (these long scenes, while well rendered, play themselves out rather tediously) and live behind a shield of verbiage (""This is post-civilization, buddy. . .Divorce has become an obligation to the self""). Eventually, the therapists seek out a marriage counselor (the sessions are zappy and just right in tone--chess-players consumed by self-consciousness) before visits to the divorce lawyer and a final case summary followed by psychological rewriting: ""In her [Adrienne's] revisionist fantasy, the marriage had eroded of its own accord."" Despite some occasional overcleverness: a well-crafted effort about people who pursue ""the illusion of connection"" and get nowhere.
Pub Date: Aug. 30, 1990
Page Count: -
Publisher: Fiction Collective Two (Dept. of English, Illinois State Univ., Norman, IL 61761)