Spielberg (Twiddledum Twaddledum, The Hermetic Whore) begins this conventional story of middle-aged marital failure with a surreal scene: a group of men, all divorced, are on their way to France for a psychological-therapy retreat; they're aboard a plane that's piloted and crewed by women; and the plane flies so high that both the women and the men have exaggerated sexual reactions--a table-turning lesson in the pitfalls of the usual sexual ogling. Then, however, Spielberg follows up this arresting whimsy with a familiar tale of marriage-disintegration, told backwards--from divorce lawyers to first meeting. The husband is actuarial statistician Chuck Burg. His wife of twelve years, the mother of his two children, is Anne--a woman who has a weakness for erotic entanglement with flashy intellectuals and achievers. So the marital problems seem to become acute around the time of the ""open marriage"" craze--a party, hosted by the Burgs, gets carried away--and proceed from there: Anne's affair with Jack Axle, an off-off-Broadway dramatist and director; Chuck's desperation, paranoia, depression; his unequal share of the child-rearing; and a brief stab at reconciliation on a comic-idyllic Maine island. Novels about this sort of mid-life-crisis, full of flat, wailing pain and husbandly recriminations, are notoriously unappealing. (Cf. the recent, inter-minable Beautiful Women; Ugly Scenes by C.D.B. Bryan.) And Spielberg's version, aside from those curious opening pages, is humorless, uninvolving, and all but shapeless.
Pub Date: Feb. 21, 1984
Page Count: -
Publisher: Fiction Collective--dist. by Flatiron (175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010)