Dumped by his provider wife, smarting and bewildered, a 55-year-old ossifying writer who can still poke fun at himself starts over on Maryland’s eastern shore—in a sweetly innocuous fiction debut.
Budge (“Rolling Stone Carries No”) Moss believes himself the victim of having ignored “the inevitability of change” when his wife of many years gets fed up with supporting his less-than-lucrative writing life (he hasn’t produced a book for seven years) and abruptly leaves him for Battery Park City. On his own, Budge sells everything, including the honeymoon boat Hula Moon, and settles into a rented cottage with his cat on the beach of the touristy town of Rock Hall, spending most of his time feeling sorry for himself and writing an autobiographical novel that sounds a lot like this one. Women are what he misses, more than his disputatious wife per se, and finding a friendship that includes sex—please!—becomes Budge’s single preoccupation, outside of pinching pennies. Svenson (Battlefield: Farming a Civil War Battleground, 1992) is a nimble writer fond of smug one-liners for literary readers with cocktail-party vocabularies (“Nodding presbyopicly, the ladies concur”) as his protagonist segues pathetically into Rock Hall society, including fairly desperate potluck dinners, membership in the nightly Sunset Club on the beach, and camaraderie with the surprisingly sympathetic 92-year-old Sue, whom he would gladly sleep with after a few glasses of wine, if she’d have him. In fact, having recognized that his youth is gone and that rejecting older women is a form of rejecting himself (“a worthless fraudulent fooling-nobody-but-himself shit”), Budge embraces a triumphant feminist awareness that finally readies him for a relationship with a real adult more or less his own age. Breezy and self-congratulatory, Svenson’s plea for self-fulfillment reads a lot like Budge’s rejected ad in a personals column.
A sad-funny tale of rising from the ashes of divorce for the Viagra set.