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Two Marriages Hardcover – September 2, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

While best known for his engaging personal essay collections (Being with Children, etc.), Lopate is also the author of two novels (including The Rug Merchant); here he turns in a pair of lively novellas. Taking the form of a self-conscious diary, The Stoic's Marriage opens as Gordon, a pretentious intellectual, records the perfection of his marriage to Rita, a former home aide from the Philippines. When her relatives arrive unexpectedly, his postures of generosity toward his wife's family make his farcical unreliability as a narrator abundantly clear. Eleanor, or, The Second Marriage offers a bird's-eye view of a middle-aged couple's bourgeois complacency as they host a party, complete with gourmet food, a Charlie Chaplin screening (from real film, natch) and urbane banter. The characters seem pulled from a lifestyle issue of New York magazine, and a shattering secret, when revealed, doesn't have much to push against—but that's Lopate's point. The novella form tends to work against these tales, which feel like underdeveloped novels, but Lopate gets in some good jabs at the chattering classes. (Sept.)
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From The New Yorker

All marriages are a gamble: how well do you need to understand your partner before you jump in the game? In this pair of novellas, Lopate examines the question first with humor, and then with melancholy. In the opening one, a middle-aged academic with a private income marries the Filipino nurse�s aide who cared for his dying mother. True, he knows almost nothing about her past, but does that really matter, if he is madly in love? In the second, a middle-aged couple, whose town house in Brooklyn is perpetually filled with good food, good wine, and good conversation, consider themselves well armed against the threats of their previous relationships, but do they know one another�s secrets�and, for that matter, should they? Lopate brings considerable psychological insight to these questions but fails to make us feel the risks in our gut. We may be titillated by this high-stakes game, but we have no difficulty walking away from the table.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Other Press; First Edition edition (September 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590512987
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590512982
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,907,148 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Anon. on April 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Two Marriages juxtaposes two different relationships and consists of two novellas. The author has an exquisite ability to descibe the interior landscape of his protagonists. Within each novella, they describe internal conflict, anger, confusion, regret, doubt, and so on. I like that fact that two novellas are juxtaposed within one book. Thoughtfully written, definitely recommended.
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6 of 11 people found the following review helpful By alldayReader on November 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Phillip Lopate's two novellas about marriage in his book Two Marriages read like writing group exercises gone bad. Both are facile and trivial and uninspired.

The first, "The Stoic's Marriage", uses the narrator's diary (I can just imagine the writing instructor saying: "today we'll tell a story using diary entries") to tell us the pathetic story of a "middle aged fart" (an incredibly accurate insult lodged at the narrator) who marries a young Filipino nurse. Everything in this novella is either unbelievable or offensive , and too often, both. There are no flashes of humor to lighten the load of reading, there is no new insight offered into the too-well recorded phenomenon of supposedly intelligent older men going for younger, less educated women. Lopate has his narrator accuse himself often of laziness (maybe he is but his character is so flatly drawn by Lopate that we only know he is lazy because he calls himself so); but Lopate is the truly lazy one, rattling off words to tell a linear and boring tale told many times before. Lopate is lazy in his use of clichés and has his poor narrator apologize for all the clichés: forget the apology and instead give me some genuine writing! Lopate is lazy ( and so predictable) in his treatment of Filipinos and Filipino culture, of women in general, of Italian neighborhoods in Brooklyn, of academics, and of marriage. Was this novella supposed to be a farce? Only it wasn't funny. And why the allusions to Unamumo, and to Epictetus and Seneca and Marcus Aurelius? I've read Unamumo and he has nothing to do with what Lopate presents here. The Stoics are purportedly the reason why the poor narrator is in the pickle he's in but guess what?
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Reader on September 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Philip Lopate is a fantastic writer. These two stories are quite different from each other. The first one is hilarious and escalates into fabulous madness. The second, wonderfully observed, is strangely disturbing. This book really delivers.
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