This is not a normal book review; rather it is a review of 152 pages of writing by Ben Schrank. I can’t tell you how the story – Love is a Canoe – ends. I’m afraid I was not up to the task of getting there.
The author of a hit self-help book is contacted by an editor with an idea for a contest to celebrate the anniversary of his book. As the book is about marriage, the prize is an afternoon with the author; a chance for the winners of the competition to save their marriage.
The narrative style:
‘Emily smiled at him from the middle of their apartment, where she stood next to the kitchen island.’ (5)
‘Peter called out to his wife. She was in the bathroom and he didn’t want to interrupt her, but he would if he didn’t hear from her in another moment’ (16).
The long explanatory passages:
‘She hated that she could be so bold in a meeting and yet so quick to cross the street or hide behind a car when she saw an acquaintance. Over the years, the best way she’d found to unite these parts of herself had grown out of becoming part of an e-mail Listserv that kept its exclusive group of never more than 111 members updated on industrial design events in New York and general global ID trends.’ (57)
(This particular passage is in the midst of a four-page internal exposition of the character and includes paragraphs that begin ‘She had met Eli’… ‘She had discovered this talent’… ‘She often felt like’ …)
‘It’s easy to make a likable pie. I want to see people fucking love whatever we make. I want to see forks go in mouths and swoons happen. I want to see finger licking, not liking’ (7)
‘Say it like you damn well have got to find out where the romance is.’ (34)
In these and other examples, it seems the swear words are slotted in arbitrarily.
The saccharin homilies from the original book
“Good love is a quilt – light as feathers and strong as iron” (39)
“Desire for your loved one gives you the strength to paddle on” (53)
With banal prose, Ben Schrank presents characters in this 339 page book that I simply didn’t care about. They are so mundane, they could be each other. They could be the author. There is no cohesive pattern or lineal flow and the characters don’t engender sympathy.
I’m afraid there came a point half-way through the book where I faced that ‘life is too short’ moment (you know, those moments when an annoying acquaintance bails you up for a lengthy chat one time too many or you’ve realised you’ve spent too much time cleaning the bathroom and not enough walking in the sunshine). So, just as I have snubbed the acquaintance and halved my cleaning time, I have put this book aside.
My biggest surprise is that Love is a Canoe is from Text Publishing. I am nonplussed and I would appreciate comment from anyone who has read the book and enjoyed it.
Schrank, Ben. Love is a Canoe, The Text Publishing Company, Melbourne. 2000.