MY PRESENT AGE by Guy Vanderhaeghe


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My Present Age begins where the last two short stories in Man Descending (see above) leave off in Ed's autobiographical account of his life with and without Victoria during the stormy end of their marriage. Walter Mitty by day, Lothario by night, Ed plays the fall-guy/hero in this schmalzy operetta. Victoria dominates; he recedes--the conventional comic inversion. Ed is obese, paranoid and given to self-indulgent flights of fancy. Most of the novel's action turns on his quest for his estranged Victoria, made pregnant by her lover Anthony, professor and author of Fantasies and Fasces, a study that began with his reading Ed's closet Western about Sam Waters, Cool, Clear Waters. Ed has a breakdown, after which Victoria took over the breadwinning; he, the housework; but the marriage rapidly dissolved from the day Victoria came home to find Ed serving hors d'oeuvres while dressed in cardboard rabbit ears and cotton balls on his swimsuit. While wrangling over the complete Balzac in ex-college roommate Penny's law office (Benny now counselor to his wife), Ed snitched some stationery, later forged letters in Penny's name to the local open-line radio show. Imagining himself as innocent as Huck Finn and as audaciously glamorous as his own fictional Sam Waters, he gets into a battle with McMurtry downstairs--Ed's Beatles and Beach Boys vs. McMurtry's TV. Ed fancies McMurtry a U-Boat, depth-charges him with an old 12-pound shot his father had bought him to make him a man back in high school. Hospitalized briefly after having demolished the plaster on McMurtry's ceiling, Ed finally finds Victoria with ex-felon, would-be writer Stanley's help and, to answer her dilemma--should she have an abortion or not?--gives implausibly sensible advice. Victoria leaves him again; he runs away from everybody, back to his contest with the radio show and the peacefulness of a hospital bed. Is this the art novel Ed has been wanting to write? It certainly is a list of complaints from breakfast cereals to jacuzzis, but not one that's new. It has none of the imaginative vitality of the Homer Price stories, the bold rebelliousness of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, the punch of Thurber or the zany grotesqueness of Harry Crews. Its characters lack personality; its social criticism is jejune; and its humor seems aimed at the sophomoric, jock-fraternity set.

Pub Date: Sept. 6th, 1985
Publisher: Ticknor & Fields/Houghton Mifflin