26 December 2012

My Thoughts on Lily Tuck, I Married You For Happiness

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"Imagine a teacup falling on the floor and smashing into random pieces," Philip tells his class. "If you were to film this, you could run the film backward and see all the pieces jump back together. Obviously, you cannot do this in ordinary life -- believe me, I've tried although my wife complains that, soon, we won't have any china left." No one laughs. "The explanation for this," he continues, "is that disorder or entropy within a closed system always increases with time -- in other words, left alone, everything will decay.  The teacup, which looks like such a delicate object is, in fact, a highly ordered thing.  It took energy to make it that way and when the teacup breaks, some of that energy is lost and the teacup is in a disordered state" [...] "However" should the universe  stop expanding and start to contract," Philip continues,"disorder or entropy would decrease  and, then, like in the film played backward that I mentioned earlier, we would see broken teacups everywhere coming back together.  We would also be able to remember events in the future but not remember events in the past."
I couldn't help but to quote at length from this passage about 2/3 the way through Lily Tuck's small, but powerful novel.  I couldn't help it because these few pages encompassed, for this reader, what the book was about.  When Nina, the narrator's, husband Philip dies, suddenly but peacefully, before dinner one night, she spends the hours before the sun comes up sitting by his side reminiscing about their marriage, the good times and the bad.  As unexpected disorder interrupts an otherwise normal evening, Nina sits, putting the pieces of the fallen teacup together again. She assembles for the reader her rush of memories from the early days of their marriage to the quiet time its final days.  There is everything from sensual descriptions of warm days abroad in France, and fond musings on Philip, a mathematician's, theoretical suppositions.

The book is quiet and unsentimental.  Neither Nina, nor Philip, is without fault; they are both victims and perpetrators of infidelities and cruelties. And yet, the narrative is so loving, and sometimes so heart-wrenching, that there were times when I had to put down the book.  When I finished, I'm not sure that I felt satisfied, or improved, or entertained, but I did feel like I had experienced something very private and very beautiful. 

Title:I Married You for Happiness
Author: Lily Tuck
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Date: 2011
Genre:Literary Fiction

190 pages.
Where I got it: Library
Challenges: None

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