- Paperback: 113 pages
- Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press; First Dalkey edition (September 1, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781564785121
- ISBN-13: 978-1564785121
- ASIN: 1564785122
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.4 x 7.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #113,469 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Log of the S.S. the Mrs Unguentine Paperback – September 1, 2008
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“Like that second the in its title, Log of the S.S. The Mrs. Unguentine is a stubborn creation that demands attention, and that odd surname is right on the money: This formally seamless book stings and soothes, like the most potent ointment, applied to literature too content to play it far too safe.” (Bookforum)
“While Crawford's novel brings to mind the great literature of the sea (Moby-Dick, Mutiny on the Bounty, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"), he doesn't allude to it; he doesn't have to. Log of the S.S. the Mrs. Unguentine—the book's most inelegant passage is its title—is a brave and audacious novel whose style, structure, story and language come together like strands of hemp spliced into an intricate knot.” (Chicago Tribune)
“No one captures the mind of a control freak like Stanley Crawford.” (The Village Voice)
About the Author
Ben Marcus is a surfer and skateboarder for life. He was Surfer magazine associate editor and still writes for Surfer, The Surfer's Journal, and others. He's the author of our The Surfboard, Surfing USA!, Surfing & the Meaning of Life, and The Surfer's Handbook. He lives in Malibu, of course. www.benmarcusrules.com
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I don't know about the "masterpiece" raves. We do meander a bit and Mrs. Unguentine, our narrator, is not terribly engaging or particularly insightful. But, if you approach this as more of an exercise in the art of being subtly interesting or as an experiment in form and style, or if you take it as a meditation on marriage and coupling, or on the limits and bonds of intimacy, well it has its rewards.
Anyway, if you have to spend time trapped on a boat, this better than doing so with some kid and a tiger.
Written in 1972, this short piece of fiction (little over 100 pages, plus a 5-pages afterword to help you put things in perspective) can be enjoyed in one gulp.
It chronicles the adventures of Mr. Unguentine, his wife (who is to remain namelesse throughout the novel) and their uncanny marriage, living aboard a quasi-magical barge complete with a glass-dome, a forest, animals and a maze-like feel.
This smells in many ways of magical realism and, while it feels much more post-modern than anything Marquez wrote, it still brings him to mind from time to time.
Mr. Unguentine is a surreal character. He took to living on a barge, far from any form of civilization and took his wife with him (almost adbucted her, I'd say). Their relationship borders on the master-slave paradigm, although Mr. Uguentine is capable, from time to time, to show love in his own peculiar ways.
In a way, this novel belongs to the 'what if?' literary genre. What if two adult people were to live for 40 years in absolute isolation, on a floating barge full of clever (impossible?) inventions? What sort of disturbed/alienated relationship would they develop? Throw in some magical realism and you get the basic, yet deeply original, recipe for this novel.
For those who have adventurous tastes in all-things lit., this might prove to be a deeply satisfying, albeit quick, read.
Mrs. Unguentine as a narrator is eloquent but a bit of a bore, overly fascinated with her husband's many fantastical habits and contraptions and getting carried away about her sensory experiences. She's at her best when writing about the rare moments of companionship and passion that maintain her husband's hold on her, and when reporting on her timid but witty attempts to draw him out (largely through notes presented at breakfast). Mostly though she talks listlessly about her lonely work on the boat, her occasional tantrums, her efforts to cope with isolation and to finally escape Unguentine's clutches, years after his final disappearance. But it gets boring hanging out with a narrator who has lost almost all sense of her own identity, and the incessant piling on of eccentric details gets old too. And everything is so overloaded with metaphorical connotations.
To barge on a barge, the story begins with the sardonic, melodious voice of Mrs Unguentine, whose abusive, inebriated husband invents lavished nautical things such as a colossal dome on a barge and a fake, really fake, Amazon to pass their 40 years voyage at sea staying quite clear of land and civilization. Poor (sweet) potentially obese Ungentine endures forty years of the tendered, reticent, violent blows of her brilliant, mildly deranged marriage.
An eccentric meditation on the perverse connubial life of a modern Adam and Eve. The narrative flows intensely and fluidly. An extraordinary invention. Too bad the book got submerged or blanched out by the political upheavals (Vietnam war, the Munich Massacre) of the 70s and I haven't been exposed to it until now.