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The Slippage: A Novel Paperback – April 23, 2013
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The Amazon Book Review
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On a quiet suburban street, all is not as it seems in the Day household. William and Louisa appear to be an ordinary married couple, except Louisa is checking out of the marriage in odd ways, and William seems willfully unaware of any problems. While Louisa retreats from social gatherings and displays “no noise and barely any life” as she disappears beneath the bed covers, William continues on autopilot in his corporate job and daily activities. Then Louisa drops a quiet bomb. William is to build her a house on land she secretly bought. The unspoken ultimatum to her desire is simultaneously vague and sinister. In her need to “know for sure that life is moving forward,” the threat of Louisa’s outgrowing both him and the marriage galvanizes William in unexpected ways. Their marital cracks become even more brutally exposed, especially after a woman from William’s past moves into the house across the street. Greenman’s style will appeal to those who appreciate literary fiction that succinctly yet eloquently dissects the contemporary American marriage. --Julie Trevelyan
“In The Slippage, Ben Greenman illuminates the strange, electric moments that lurk in the seemingly ordinary milieus of the suburban kitchen, the married bedroom. With compassion and dark humor, Greenman brings the absurdity and grace of marriage vividly to life.” (Laura van den Berg, author of What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us)
“Ben Greenman’s The Slippage is a slyly funny and heartbreaking portrait of suburban American marriage, like an update of John Cheever in an age of smartphones and rampant corporate greed. This stellar novel asks whether it’s ever possible to see clearly-in love, life, or art.” (Luis Jaramillo, author of The Doctor's Wife)
“With The Slippage, Ben Greenman proves what many of us suspected: he’s one of our best writers, and he can do anything...It’ll be the book of the year.” (Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life and Chang & Eng)
“Ben Greenman’s relentlessly funny novel engages with the mystery whereby a seemingly sane man can take steps to simultaneously solidify and destroy his life. Greenman is a brilliant and wry stenographer.” (Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia)
“Reminiscent of the greatest, elegiac work of William Maxwell, Greenman’s book is a reminder of the ways we fail, in love, and find grace in even that failure. This is truly a beautiful book.” (Pauls Toutonghi, author of Evel Knievel Days and Red Weather)
“Ben Greenman’s The Slippage turns backyard barbecues and suburban playgrounds into tense and charged territory. . . . If Emma Bovary had lived in the ‘burbs, she would have left a story like this in her wake.” (Emma Straub, author of Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures)
“The Slippage is a terrific novel, a wry and affecting depiction of an America adrift in its tidy cul de sacs of anxiety, lust, and disappointment. Ben Greenman writes crackling dialogue, brilliant characters, and sentences so sharp they hurt.” (Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins and We Live in Water)
“Greenman’s style will appeal to those who appreciate literary fiction that succinctly yet eloquently dissects the contemporary American marriage.” (Booklist)
“Greenman has a knack for chronicling the uncertain angst of suburban life. . . [He] has crafted one of the more surprising and remarkable opening scenes in this year’s bumper crop of contemporary realism.” (Kansas City Star)
“Perceptive.” (Publishers Weekly)
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It never really seems that either spouse has much of a concept of the other outside of the slippage. I found that this was irritating at first, until the random fluctuations began to graph the state of flux in which we often find ourselves. The two take steps back and forth from each other as Louisa reveals that she inherited money and wants to build a new house. William can never seem to settle between refusal and passive aggressive refusal. The writing sometimes takes jerky leaps in point of view, although the story is told from William's perspective,
My favorite character ends up being Tom, the obnoxious man boy who always seems to signal upheaval. Then he graphs it. The author in fact admits that central role in the extra material. To me he is that random factor that prevents one from understanding his life as an ongoing concern. I have to say that William should have taken a strong clue the night of the party and again when he finds the mail hoarded in bundles. In the end, the strange lack of movement fascinated me and kept me involved with this unlikely couple. The story kept me intrigued and tickled the back of my mind, which I always think is a good thing.
Count on re-reading this one, because the more you invest in The Slippage, the more you take away. It's a slow story about love, marriage and infidelity, mundane on the surface, but active below, like the day before an earthquake where nothing much is happening except that the plates are about to shift. The people are mostly folks you already know, including the one you see in the mirror, carefully observed. The questions only get darker and deeper. The writing is exceptionally well crafted, and hugely funny, if you have a taste for the driest of the dry. So if you are a patient reader you will find joy in these pages.
Looking for shorts? Try Greenman's "Ambivalence" , a simple-complex fable, and my all-time favorite story.
"The slippage is a specific thing. It's the moment when you start to lose your footing."
It's hard to tell where William Day's slippage began. Was it at the party he and his wife, Louisa, threw, when she didn't come out of hiding until the very end? Was it the moment an emotionally distant Louisa revealed she had bought property with inherited money, and asked William to build her a house? Or was it the unexpected reappearance of a person with whom he had a brief relationship some time ago?
Whatever was the instigator, something--or a combination of things--seems to be increasing William's discomfort with his life, his marriage, and his career, causing him to act erratically in all three aspects. And Louisa's fluctuating moods don't seem to help, although he tries taking solace in the time he spends with a former girlfriend's young son. But finally he is confronted with a major decision--build the house for Louisa or risk jeopardizing his marriage irrevocably. Meanwhile, he also has to deal with his artist brother-in-law's emotional baggage, and the increased tension of an arsonist stalking their town.
Ben Greenman's The Slippage is a well-written and intriguing book about relationships, but it's also more about the things left unsaid than the things that are actually said. So often in this book the characters didn't say what they were thinking or feeling, or didn't divulge the truth about a particular situation, which often led to misunderstandings or caused the characters to act in ways they might not ordinarily. At times I found myself wondering what the characters were really thinking, or what was motivating them to act the way they were, and that confused me occasionally. But these pauses, these secrets really made the situations Greenman wrote about seem more true-to-life.
I really enjoyed Greenman's storytelling ability, and thought for the most part, William was a really compelling character, although at times he, too, was a little more mysterious than I thought he'd be. But I found Louisa's character fairly unlikeable, and in fact, Louisa's actions toward the end of the book seemed somewhat out of character, so I wasn't sure if we were to take her at face value. Still, Greenman's voice is an enjoyable one, and I plan to go back and explore some of his earlier story collections to see the depth of his talent.
The novel disappoints because the author never really attempts to get at the root of their disconnection - a situation of longstanding. Louisa, a grating character to say the least, makes an abrupt demand to build a new home that solves nothing. One cannot say that the book is a condemnation of suburbia; it is far more about failures to understand another person.
The bottom line is that the novel is not compelling - not the characters, the story line, or its insights.