Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Love is a Canoe by Ben Schrank

I was blown away by this book. This is a book about a book written by Peter Herman. He writes Marriage is a Canoe in 1971.  It is about the things he learned about marriage when he spent the summer of 1961 with his grandparents while his parents were divorcing.
Some of the chapters flashback between Peter's marriage with Lisa, who died and the chapters he wrote in the book.  There are also the chapters from 2008 about the re-release of Marriage is a Canoe by the publisher.  An editor decides to offer a contest in which the winning couple will get some counseling from Peter, based on the book's philosophy. It seems confusing but once you get into the story the progression is natural to follow.

Starred Publisher’s Weekly Review
Three stories of personal and literary authenticity weave through this novel of love and books that gets sharper and smarter as it progresses. Forty years ago, Peter Herman penned Love Is a Canoe, a memoir and meditation on marriage that retains a devoted following. Canoe’s homilies from Peter’s adolescent summer spent in upstate New York with his grandparents as his own parents’ marriage crumbled contain a certain enduring quality: “A good marriage is a canoe—it needs care and isn’t meant to hold too much—no more than two adults and a couple of kids.” …. The honesty doled out as events unspool is bracing and frank, and give these characters added depth and wisdom. —Publisher’s Weekly
Excerpt:
Emily Babson, July 2010
 “I got everything,” Eli called out. He carried his bike in one hand so its top tube was level with his ear and he swung a canvas bag full of groceries in the other hand.
Emily smiled at him from the middle of their apartment, where she stood next to the kitchen island. She had been examining a defrosting piecrust.
“Did you get cornstarch?” she asked.
Eli let their front door slam behind him, dropped the bike so it bounced once before coming to a lean against the wall, and came through the big parlor and into the kitchen. He kissed her. He smelled like iron and oil from his bicycle factory and then underneath that, the smell she’d given up trying to properly name and now just thought of as green olives, which made no sense. She loved his smell. He had dark hair that he wore a little long and his eyes were brown but sometimes she saw them flash violet. She let go of the piecrust and put a hand on his chest.
“I forgot that. I got everything else, though.”
“Blueberry pie won’t work without it.”
“Sure it will. It should. Anyway, we must have some.” He kissed her again. Eli Corelli was as tall as his wife, though he was thicker, so in photographs he looked shorter. When Emily first met him after a lecture he’d given at the New School, she thought he had legs like tree trunks and she loved that about him immediately, that he was so solid that if she were ever inclined to throw herself at him, he could catch her.
Though it was Saturday, they’d both been working all morning and now they planned to spend the rest of the day making a pie for a contest held by Emily’s sister, Sherry. Emily didn’t often go to Sherry’s parties, which Sherry threw when she was between acting jobs, but she liked the theme of this one.
“I called her and got the scoop,” Emily said. “There’s two categories, sweet and savory. And then a final big winner at the end. So our blueberry could go up against chicken potpie. Though it’s too hot for that.”
“I hope going sweet was the right move.” Eli slipped his hands around Emily’s waist.
Emily pushed the piecrust around on the counter. She’d bought it yesterday and it would take at least another hour to thaw. She’d said yes to her little sister’s pie party on Monday before her shyness held her back and now she was nervous. Emily had long ago accepted that Sherry was social and she was not. Sherry was striking to look at. She had black hair while Emily’s was only very dark brown. And Sherry’s face was all angles so her photographer friends loved to take her picture because of all the shadows they could find when they lit her. Emily’s face was softer and rounder and she was quicker to tan. Most of the time she had a spray of freckles over her nose and cheeks. She had her hair cut in bangs to contrast with her features. The sisters weren’t best friends—Sherry’s best friends were actors like her, and they changed every year or two. Emily was just three years older than Sherry. They were equally protective of each other. And if Emily was being honest, she would have to admit that she was closer to Sherry than anyone else in New York. Emily had been too shy in her twenties and then she’d surprised herself and everyone else when she met Eli and married him. But instead of becoming more confident because she had a husband who everyone loved, she had come to live too much inside their marriage. She beat herself up about this situation and often thought up schemes that would change the dynamic before it solidified and she completely lost her identity to their coupledom. Before she was with Eli, she had trained herself to love to go to yoga at least a few times a week, to switch to merlot after a Manhattan or to just start with merlot, to not feel remorseful when she went shopping for clothes and brought home the same charcoal cashmere cardigan over and over again. She had learned to care for herself. Now she was sure she could work herself out of this newish state, and she believed that she absolutely had to before they had children. Emily was aware of the calculation that went into her decision to go to this party, aware of how purposeful she was and how she was bothered by it, but she was determined to go anyway. Eli never seemed to tear himself up the way she did. She loved Eli. But she was often frustrated with herself and jealous of her husband. Read more here.

Pages: 342

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