I’m sorry, but they had a different way of talking about subtraction back when I was in school. It wasn’t “Take this away from that”; it was never a matter of minus. It was “Find the difference of.” E.g., “Find the difference of fifty-four and thirty-one.” So go ahead. Find the difference of her and me.
This is my first experience with Gary Lutz. By coincidence, I happened to have recently stumbled across his “The Sentence is a Lonely Place” in The Believer (from a speech he gave at Columbia) and was astonished: here I’ve been beating myself up about character development and everyone must want something and narrative distance and here this guy is talking about sentences and assonance and stressed syllables, the things I love dearly. And I’ve been brainwashed to believe “writing” (which I adore) is secondary to “storytelling” (which is some mysterious process I do not understand). Can I switch sides?
I fear it may be too late for me, because I was lost in this story. It struck me as a collection of wonderful aphorisms and anecdotes. The girl who keeps going back to her exes to get her stuff, but never actually gets her stuff. “The book was the kind whose pages couldn’t be tamed to lie flat. The thing kept shutting itself.” “She would always start off a new notebook on the fifth or seventh page. The hope was that what came to her later would be good enough for the front.” (I used to do the same thing, back in the days when I could write with a pen on notebooks, before my hands curled permanently into keyboard-ready position). His job writing pamphlets which must use other terms for “spouse.” The narrator’s nephew: there is no I in team, but there is an M and an E and that would be ME (I love this so much I want to tattoo it to my forehead) – oh, yeah, the tattoos, too. The neighbors that are “teeming out of their apartment and into the hall.” The supermarket. The urinals at work. “And the different ways I was hated by different people!” The paperwork. “‘Gone through’ = impaled.”
I have no idea what this story is about (other than a marriage and divorce) but it sure was fun to read. And I have a lot to learn.