Deb Olin Unferth’s Vacation reads like a cross between Pinter and Beckett, a post-modern absurdist novel. Marriages, unions gone awry. A novel of futility, leading, and of course, following-
If you think about it, everyone is behind someone and in front of someone. The nature of the sphere, right? None gets left at the end or is forced to take the lead, and in this way you might say the shape of the earth is democratic. There are hesitations, of course. There are lines going in ways that you wouldn’t imagine. People are passed up or passed over. The tempo is irregular and messy. If you thought about the entirety of it, the legs, the back and forth, it’s a fiasco, an anarchy of steps. It’s impossible. And there’s no way to tidy it or make it in any way manageable, not in one’s imagination or anywhere else.
A novel of staying. Or leaving.
In truth, here is the story: A man leaves a place. A man leaves another place. And another. And another. He has to keep leaving and sometimes it is good and sometimes it is not, but mostly not. It is just a series of departures, of doors closing, a briefcase snapping shut. Nothing becomes clearer. Nobody changes. The man wants to change but cannot. The man wants to change the woman he loves and left but cannot do that either, stubborn stuck nails that humans are – failure of evolution or God.
Ostensibly the story about the dissolution of a marriage, a man named Myers follows his wife following a man named Gray. Myers has a mis-shaped head from when he jumped out a fourth story window as a boy. Just following a bird. Gray is an old school chum of Myers. Gray has a brain tumor. His wife has no idea of Grays connection to Myers. And on.
Interesting, though a novel that takes 60 of its 215 pages to find its rythym has a problem. Alhough a bleak vision, it’s told with a certain fatalistic wry humor. A slight shrug if the shoulders, as if to say. What did you expect, anyway?