Saturday, April 25, 2009

Review of Vacation by Deb Olin Unferth

Vacation Vacation by Deb Olin Unferth

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
I finished this book last week but waited a bit to see what my reaction would be. Like an exotic tea, you have to give books like this time to steep, a moment to cool off before really seeing what it tastes like. Also like exotic teas, it is very easy to get caught up in the packaging - this book, like most McSweeney's books, is gorgeous. The text on the page seems almost embossed on wedding announcement paper tinted the slightest possible shade of green. The sentences and paragraphs laid out in that text bear a similar care, they are placed just so. This is, and I say this with no denigration intended, the kind of novel I expect poets would enjoy.

But, zoom out from all its crystalline detail and the book seemed a little cold and unbelievable. The details of a marriage in jeopardy are hard to depict because they are so mundane, and this book circumvents that with far-flung locales, poorly-thought-through (by the characters, not the author) quests and, maybe the chilliest of all, shocking cordiality. The characters go about being stupid in ultimately a very adult manner, and maybe I wanted some rashness of character to coincide with their actions. Like many exotic teas, once you get past the tale of origin and special instructions and the really cool tin it came in and reveling in the combined experience, I feel like I drank some hot water.

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