Read Log of the S.S. The Mrs. Unguentine by Stanley Crawford Ben Marcus Online


Forty years ago I first linked up with Unguentine and we made love on twin-hulled catamarans, sails a-billow, bless the seas . . .So begins the courtship of a certain Unguentine to the woman we know only as “Mrs. Unguentine,” the chronicler of their sad, fantastical tale. For forty years, they sail the seas together, alone on a giant land-covered barge of their own devisinForty years ago I first linked up with Unguentine and we made love on twin-hulled catamarans, sails a-billow, bless the seas . . .So begins the courtship of a certain Unguentine to the woman we know only as “Mrs. Unguentine,” the chronicler of their sad, fantastical tale. For forty years, they sail the seas together, alone on a giant land-covered barge of their own devising. They tend their gardens, raise a child, invent an artificial forest—all the while steering clear of civilization.Log of the S.S. The Mrs. Unguentine is a masterpiece of modern domestic life, a comic novel of closeness and difficulty, miscommunication and stubborn resolve. Rarely has a book so perfectly registered the secret solitude of marriage, how shared loneliness can result in a powerful bond....

Title : Log of the S.S. The Mrs. Unguentine
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781564785121
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 107 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Log of the S.S. The Mrs. Unguentine Reviews

  • Mike Puma
    2019-03-25 16:58

    Briefly: Just when you might think you’ve had it with PoMo silliness, along comes something that’s anything but. I started this one thinking, Oh no. Proceeded with a sense of dread. Nothing beautiful. Nothing exciting. To eventually arrive at a place of And yet.What may or may not be pages of the narrator’s log, recounts years (and years, and years) at sea (or not), with her husband (and his memory, and his ghost, and his love, or not) on a barge that is transformed into a burgeoning floating island transformed/transgressed by artifice—a husband who may have been abusive, absolutely, definitely, might just have been abusive—but does have, among his redeeming qualities, the wisdom to mark off the days of his calendar with question marks rather than Xs.4.something stars, rounded up for those damned question marks. Some of you should probably, maybe, almost assuredly, check this one out.

  • Vit Babenco
    2019-03-27 18:51

    I wonder what the log of Noah’s Ark could be like. Probably it would’ve read like this:“The view, when I had time, exhilarating and grand. There might even seem, as I would lift a sail and peep through the glass at the garden three stories below, the goat grazing at a pile of brush, ducks waddling from one pond to another, nothing else I could possibly desire.”Log of the S.S. the Mrs. Unguentine is a book of maritime adventures, well, of sorts.Actually it is an account of the woman’s life and the slow deterioration of happiness, love, hopes and youth.What is our life if not a long voyage – a sailing across the troubled ocean of life? “I remember that midnight on the bow, anchors dropped, a moon casting a strange simulacrum of daylight over the water through some haze in the sky, a tone of light almost identical to that of a foggy day; and we stood at the railing which glistened under the slightest application of dew, the sea being waveless and graced only by lazy swells that passed us like the undulations of a great caterpillar’s back; and it was then, spontaneously, that we both broke into song, into a lilting sort of aria, but unsyllabled and smooth and which trailed off into a low hum, charging the night sea until the horizon bubbled with sheet-lightning and the waters glowed with the pulsations of electronic plankton, and we fell silent.”I absolutely enjoyed an atmosphere of this floating nuthouse… And an amazingly poetic language of the novel… And its elaborately veiled profound sadness.Be it dead calm or stormy weather ship sails on…

  • Nate D
    2019-03-24 15:53

    Science fiction without science, magical realism without magic, surrealism shorn of its major concerns and retuned to human emotion. Somewhere triangulating but outside all of these concerns, lies a certain sort of writing that I tend to find terribly involving. This example of this strange territory is a compressed chronicle of 40+ years of marriage on a kind of floating garden, its two occupants falling into their (lack of) relationship just as the outside world recedes beyond the horizon (or maybe beneath the waves), all rendered with poetic economy and continuously fascinating reconfigurations of both characters and setting.

  • Eddie Watkins
    2019-03-21 13:41

    An utterly beguiling book with the feel of a loosely executed allegory, which allows the meaning(s) to roam and float from domestic portrait to the fall of man to a holistic gaia epic, but though there is a suggested formula within the structure I suspect Crawford stuck to his aesthetic guns and worked without a formulaic net, hence the utterly beguiling nature of it, offering open-ended rewards and the draw to read and reread it. Some have said that this is a probing portrait of a marriage but I read it more as a probing portrait of a lifestyle of self-sufficiency that happens to include a marriage as a subset; and as attractive as the conceit is - a gardened barge with wanderlust ornamented with wild yet practical inventions, that slowly creates its own ecosystem extending into the surrounding sea itself: a floating insular earth (which keys into one of my oldest fantasies) - nearly all the good times are in the past as the book begins; the narrative a detailing of its ultimate failure (the inventions becoming less and less practical), though even in failure and death there is a kind of apotheosis, a completion of a grand and mythic task, which like nature subsumes failure as it continues with proliferating continuance: a victory of sorts.

  • Proustitute
    2019-04-18 16:38

    A curiously clever book told first in short logs from aboard the titular S.S. the Mrs. Unguentine, and then increasingly longer "logs" that become more stream-of-consciousness in nature, all from the point of view of Mrs. Unguentine regarding life with her husband on the high seas.It is to Crawford's credit that his linguistic wordplay and astute psychological portrait of his narrator cause even pages upon pages of catalogues of mundane and often petty chores aboard an ever-adrift barge and in-depth accounts of the animals and plant life living in the gardens on said barge to never grow tiring for the reader. Instead, we understand that life on the sea is their world:For whatever happened, it would never end. We were out of time. On and on. Forever. That man. These seas...The barge, magnificent barge, a jewel cresting upon the high seas those thirty to forty years when the weather was still a true marvel, when one could see stars at noon, when the rare clouds were so fine and gauze-like and so much more transparent to moons, when rains were frank and without whining drizzle and cleared without lingering—such was the bright and empty space we sailed across seemingly to no end...Even their marriage is consecrated by telephone:Some high priest on a party line made us man and wife or at least did consecrate the phone line, the electrodes, or whatever. And made me drop all my names, maiden, first and middle, the result being Mrs. Unguentine.Although there are some mentions of dances and teases that Mrs. Unguentine gives to customs officers they meet along the way while sailing the high seas, there are no other characters encountered—as such, it is telling that their marriage begins with no physical party present to pronounce them man and wife, because the increasingly claustrophobic and insular relationship that is presented to us in her narrative is really the tale of how Mrs. Unguentine's identity has become subsumed beneath her husband's, "the silent stranger I now so selflessly serve ... not even wondering why anymore, that being the way things happen to have worked out, God knows how." For forty-plus years, she has catered to his dream of living aboard a barge always on the sea, never in sight of land; and, of course, it is a life of which Mrs. Unguentine is becoming increasingly resentful:Now, years and years later, those nights, the thought and touch of them is enough to make me throw myself down on the ground and roll in the dust like a hen nibbled by mites, generating clouds, stars, and all the rest.Crawford's use of the barge as both a microcosm of the larger world—again, a world which we (and because of this, the two main characters) never see—and also as a metaphor for the constrained lives the two Unguentines lead after they are married is very skillfully done here. Their work on the barge is their attempt to keep their life together intact. And, in spite of Mrs. Ungeuntine's silent seething with regard to her husband and the control he has over her life, it is with an understanding of his own loneliness that she has, in the forty years of drifting on the seas with him, come to terms with his flaws and also come to realize that the two of them are interdependent: two shared lonelinesses comprising one singular relationship, again one that emphasizes loneliness.But there is also a bitter comedy in Crawford's precious prose, too, that revels in how marriage—and all relationships of such a duration and in such solitude—builds strong ties of intimacy just as it does enmity. Indeed, the extremes of love and hate, of empathy and psychical violence, are all at play here, with the background a tragicomic barge that is as much a commentary on sustainable living as it is on marriage, interpersonal relationships, and the work that is required (and the sacrifices necessary) to keep the barge afloat, drifting calmly, toward nowhere.

  • Maureen
    2019-03-19 13:47

    last night i dreamt that unguentine wouldn't let me pee. i kept wanting to go, i kept begging him to please let me relieve my bladder but he wouldn't let me. when i woke up i went to the bathroom, and thought about how odd but appropriate it was that my subconscious should decide that unguentine was the one preventing me from relief, that this character took on the form of my sleeping control of my body.the language is very beautiful but this book made me blue. i give it five stars despite this because it also made me think. there is gorgeous creation and re-creation on this barge but also a desperate loneliness in the marriage of the two unguentines aboard it. i thought about them along the lines of adam and eve for a while, and it's easy to think about them as brian did, two suburban harpies, destroying each other. there is so little in love to trust, that even as mrs. unguentine faces her death, she is struggling in her marriage. and that makes me despair. love in itself does not seem enough. the distance and the destruction, the loneliness and the lies make me sad.

  • Matthew
    2019-03-28 18:50

    A myth? An allegory? A fariy-less fairy tale? An improbably intricate and most fabulous dream? All of the above? Who knows. Who cares! Such a sumptuous little treat of a book! If you like words, if you love language, if you enjoy mini-novels that have been painstakingly detailed and read like urgent transmissions from some other, far more fantastical (yet somehow completely and compellingly convincing) realm, then dive right in. A woman, Mrs. Unguentine, tells the story of her time on a barge--once a ship used to ferry trash, then transformed, thanks to a layering of rich humus, to an overly fertile boat-garden of vegetables, fruits, shrubs and trees--with her husband, the elusive, monomaniacal, sweet, terrifying, and inventive Mr. Unguentine. The ship is a story in itself, evolving into a dazzling vessel where earth and machinery are wondrously yoked: Unguentine builds a glass dome over the barge (the windows "chatter" in the wind), he disappears into hatches he's built beneath the earth to hide and smoke, he fashions lakes, launches homemade fireworks, descends into the barge-bowels to tend to the gargantuan motor, then commissions Mrs. U. to build sails when said motor gives out. But even better than this boat--a metaphor, I suppose, for something, maybe marriage, maybe art, novel-making, who knows--is the writing: "my oiled body lathered in veils," "a floodbath of light," "that peculiar effect of vegetal nudity that comes from brightness playing on the underside of leaves," "rains were frank and without whining drizzle and cleared without lingering," are but a taste of the language-banquet upon which to be feasted here. Mrs. Unguentine, the narrator, tells the story in a fashion that is both intimate and remote, and is every bit as imaginative as her husband. I'll end with one of my favorite (and characteristically transformative) images: "Outside the storm still raged. Moments like this I imagined, for comfort, that through those walls all the good and smiling people I had ever known were throwing buckets of water against the side of the barge." An utterly singular work of fiction.

  • Jimmy
    2019-04-09 10:45

    An amazing invention of a short novel, most impressive for the details that are required for the imagined world of a barge-cum-island to take root in the reader's mind. Fantastic in its Daumaul-ian logic, its Roussel-ish sense of spectacle. I would not go as far as Ben Marcus does in his afterword, in which he praises it for its examination of a marriage--this aspect of the book I found not fully satisfying, existing only in the most allegorically surface sense. We never get a feel for who these characters are except through a fog of whimsy. Certainly I would not (as Marcus does) compare this to the brilliant Bergman film Scenes from a Marriage, a film that plunges deep into the psyche. Instead, we have a book where there is no plunging, only the barest outward remnants of two people's madnesses. Still, quite enjoyable: I especially loved the many parts that strained the boundaries of real possibility, you could see it stretching like the marks from childbirth, but how far? When does reality break through into fantasy?

  • Josh Friedlander
    2019-04-03 16:33

    A tantalising, absurd, metafictional story of the type that flourished during its era (1970s): a nearly wordless couple live on a giant barge, on which they've planted trees, flowers, vegetables – an entire ecosystem, in fact – all under a giant glass dome, built out of scrap materials trawled from the ocean floor in a diving bell. Strange, inexplicable things occur; the marriage itself, between the narrator and the near-wordless, abusive, Unguentine, never quite comes into focus. This interview sheds some more light on the ideas of the author, a prodigy turned garlic farmer in the Southwest: puzzlement at the unravelling of America's social fabric, environmentalism, survivalism, and an interest in his wife's mother, the widow of a surly German chemist not unlike the title character? The lack of emotional resonance bothered me, but this is an alienated book about a near post-human life. The writer, like Beckett, is a fluent French speaker, and ice-cold, crisp prose abounds. I'll close with a fairly representative quote (about the narrator's son):But no name. Unguentine refused. To name, he said, would be to grasp the near and present end of the chain called history, and thus to forge another link, and how sad! I agreed. He remained namless. Child, baby, son. Quite enough terms to cover his condition.

  • Connor
    2019-03-26 12:01

    A pretty interesting examination of a marriage, through a highly biblical and magical lens. Reminds me a lot of the film Synecdoche New York. I think a lot of the reviews I've read miss the obvious symbolic imagery in favor of reading it as a story of abuse.

  • Jim
    2019-03-22 12:34

    ORIGINALLY published in 1972, Stanley Crawford's allegorical novel "Log of the S.S. the Mrs. Unguentine" has been in and out of print for years. Newly reissued after much time adrift, the book is long overdue for a heroic homecoming.The novel is written in the form of a ship's log, albeit one bereft of dates, times or coordinates. Rather than hard facts, we are presented with the 40-year history of the Unguentine marriage as the couple roams the seven seas aboard a garbage barge. At the start, Mrs. Unguentine reveals that her alcoholic husband has committed suicide by taking a one-way trip to Davy Jones' locker with a "bottle clutched to his lips."Information is presented in short, terse paragraphs that become increasingly expansive as Mrs. Unguentine mulls over her marriage. There's not much to say at first. Then a few complaints. (She wants a baby. He drinks too much.) Ultimately, the narrative blossoms into long, urgent paragraphs that stretch for pages. Imagine Donald Barthelme sending messages in a bottle to Gertrude Stein. "The seas, the seas," she laments, "how I hated them then, and all their waters which glided us from chicanery to chicanery and in our wake, our youth, oil smears iridescent of all that might have been; but never was, never will be."The plot is straightforward, but it's not always clear what's happening or, for that matter, where in the timeline things take place. It's not a matter of whether Mrs. Unguentine's narration is unreliable, but to what degree.First, there's the matter of the barge, which, under her husband's maniacally capable direction, becomes a veritable Garden of Eden replete with "forty trees with an inner circle of evergreens, cool, dark, unchanging, and surrounded by a flowing ring of deciduous trees." In addition to this floating forest, there are vegetable gardens, a menagerie and a "strange body of water which swelled and shrank in size according to some principle I never grasped." With Herculean determination, Unguentine wills this wonderland into being and disappears into it. Each of the 40 trees is given a woman's name, and he spends his days concealed in the privacy of their boughs.When he tires of the garden, Unguentine covers it with an enormous dome fashioned of high-impact glass, turning their island of plenty into a "silent, dark, aquarium." Ever restless, he uproots the trees and replaces them with replicas made of iron and cement. There's even a mechanism by which the leaves, meticulously hand-painted by his wife, can be released. Crawford carefully details their construction, but Mrs. Unguentine needs but one word to describe them: "monstrosities."Clearly, "Log of the S.S. the Mrs. Unguentine" is a metaphor for marriage, but Crawford's work is more than a narrative Noah's ark. Like the barge, it's so rigorously constructed that we cannot help but suspend our disbelief. "Warm mornings," Mrs. Unguentine tells us, "we would take breakfast to the very end of the stern deck behind the pilot-house, sometimes sit on the deck itself, legs dangling overboard, as sea gulls threaded back and forth over our white wake and eyed our movements, our toast, fried eggs."While Crawford's novel brings to mind the great literature of the sea ("Moby-Dick," "Mutiny on the Bounty" "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"), he doesn't allude to it; he doesn't have to. "Log of the S.S. the Mrs. Unguentine" -- the book's most inelegant passage is its title -- is a brave and audacious novel whose style, structure, story and language come together like strands of hemp spliced into an intricate knot.Is the premise fantastic? Absolutely. But the novel's emotional truth is as instructive as any fable. Marriage, Crawford seems to be saying, is more than a long sea voyage: It's like being press-ganged onto a sloop ruled by a bullying first mate and a treacherous captain.These aren't uncharted waters, but Crawford's approach is unique. His novel is to marriage what Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" is to parenting. In a world so audaciously cruel, our humanity depends on that which binds us to others. Whatever you want to call this essence, it's universally expressed through the institution of marriage -- the most complicated and confounding metaphor of all.

  • Spiros
    2019-04-08 10:58

    Stanley Crawford has managed the seemingly impossible in this novella; he has mastered a prose style that is dense yet evanescent. In the past week I have read this book five times, and at each reading I have come across images which I would swear I hadn't come across in previous readings. How dense? Consider this passage: "We fueled by night in obscure, foetid ports where I strip-teased on the prow, ringed by candles, to mollify thin-lipped customs officials, while Unguentine whispered assignations for contraband into lapping darkness over the stern; one week it was a case of crown jewels, another a cargo of slave babies who sang sweet songs in the depths of the hold while I leaned against the partitions and wept, childless, penniless; another time, bananas."And then, after Unguentine, in a fit of Industrial Revolutionary madness, takes an axe to all the trees on his floating arboreal Eden, replacing them with gimcrack mechanical ones:"After a day of rest in the sticky sun, I began to help him. Something to do. Gave me a little box of paints. Brushes. A pot of glue. A hamper of unpainted leaves the colour of skimmed milk, and slowly they began to pass through my fingers for their spatterings of green, then to be fastened to twigs of molybdenium wire and into drooping sprays along the lines indicated by his rough sketches, only a few dozen leaves a day at first, then with practice over two hundred, from one basket to another through my increasingly deft fingers, leaving small callouses and arid memories."The whole book evokes so much: the Book of Genesis, ROBINSON CRUSOE, and TRISTRAM SHANDY; above all else, Unguentine feels like what Prospero might have become, had he not broken his staff and drowned his books, with poor Mrs. Unguentine a perverse conflation of Ariel, Miranda, and Caliban. All that being said, I still have no idea of what this story is about; to quote Werner Herzog, regarding the ending of STROSZEK, it is "perhaps a great metaphor...though for what I could not say".

  • Charles Dee Mitchell
    2019-03-22 12:47

    A drunken Mr. Unguentine falls from the railing of the barge, thus ending a forty year marriage that began with a night of love on a catamaran and was consecrated via Transatlantic cable. He and Mrs. Unguentine, who narrates the story, have lived on their married life on the barge, sailing the seas to avoid extreme seasons, and after the first few years never touching land. Mr. Unguentine takes charge of navigation while Mrs. Unguentine tends to their world where the composting garbage provides the basis for a Garden of Eden with fruit trees and Mrs. Uguentine's livestock. Early on they make contact with other ships and even become a sort of seafaring tourist attraction. All that fades and they spend their time speaking little and tending their domed garden. Mrs. Unguentine sums up their existence nicely not quite halfway through the short novel. "All I know," she writes, "it had been a long and exhausting decade."As the comedy becomes bleaker and veers into nightmare, it is the density of Mrs. Unguentine's voice that keeps you on the barge. The barge provides the Unguentine's with whatever they need, although where supplies come from is not clear. She tells us early on that she would dance strip tease for the custom officials while her husband dealt in contraband elsewhere on the barge. But decades pass, all contact with the outside world vanishes, and yet building supplies and food are never in demand. They live their lives in a complete and miserable world of their own making.Describing The Log of the SS The Mrs. Unguentine as the story of a bad marriage does it little justice. It is a literary construction as complex and fantastic as the glass dome with sailing mechanisms Mr. Unguentine buids to power the voayge. When that structure crashes down, Crawford propels his characters into an even more fantastic realm than that he has created for their forty year marriage.

  • Ben
    2019-04-05 18:42

    Part sic-fi parable, part biblical diatribe on sustainable living, part early post-modern experimental novel in the tradition of the John Hawkes' Second Skin or Barbara Comyns' Who Changed and Who was Dead... this was an electrifying read for me in so-not-the-ways things are normally thought of as electrifying. (At least in my mind.) For example Naked Lunch or Tropic of Cancer seem electrifying solely in that they were (triple underline) published. This book is beyond being worthy of being published... I understand why it was published. It's perfect. Still, I am amazed that more folks haven't heard of it! In other words, I understand completely - even on a first read - why (italicized) it was published, but I have a difficult time understanding why it never got its Croenenberg film? -why no sacred hippie library in California?Not to be too essentialistic, but if you want a quick view of what post-modern US "literature" (i.e. Wittgenstien's Mistress, Infinite Jest, all of Bartelme) was "about," check out Log of the S.S. the Mrs. Unguentine. The writer is a garlic farmer in New Mexico, and he knows more about where literature is than most folks writing today.

  • Edwin Arnaudin
    2019-04-06 10:45

    An intriguing, experimental, literary novella. A married couple set sail on a barge, which the husband turns into his own floating world. He plants a small forest of trees, populates it with a variety of animals, and builds structures such as a giant dome out of materials fishes from the ocean's depths, all with no intention of returning to land. Moving throughout the tropics, the wife grows increasingly restless and yearns for a life on solid ground.And why wouldn't she? Her only companion is a man who'd rather leave notes for her around the ship than speak with her. Some days, she doesn't see him for days while he disappears to an unknown quadrant of their world. She wants a child, but doesn't know how to begin to broach the subject. It's all so lonely, but then there are wonderful days that make her believe she can endure. If only there were more of those days.Crawford conveys all and much more through remarkable language in sprawling 1st person paragraphs from Mrs. Unguentine that doubles as the ship's log. It's an odd story and feels like it could go anywhere (which is arguably does). About a dozen pages in, at the introductory description of the non-traditional forest and the ship purposefully hanging out in the tropics, it struck me as a quasi creation story. Here is one man's uncompromising quest to create a world as he sees fit, and it's a fascinating one, though immensely frustrating to its other occupants. I'm sure there's much more commentary to be found in its pages, but Crawford's little book feels anything but small. It's actually quite epic.

  • Jon
    2019-04-02 10:39

    In the afterword, Ben Marcus says, "Architectural dreamwork, end-times seascapes so barren they seem cut from the pages of the Bible, cooly-rendered Rube Goldberg apparati, and the crushing sadness that results when you tie your emotional fortunes to a person whose tongue is so fat in his mouth he can barely speak, mark this little masterpiece of novel." So, he liked it. I liked it as well. He goes on to say that one of the major forms of the novel is "an argument against the company of others" with another being, "a treatise on gardening at sea." With all of this I also agree. It is a sad story, but a love story. It all takes place on the ever growing land mass that is the S.S. Mrs. Unguentine barge. Imagine the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory candy garden, put that on a barge in the middle of the ocean for 50 years and listen to a woman recount how it destroyed her life. That is what is in here.

  • Lee Thompson
    2019-03-22 17:41

    When I read now, I don't necessarily read to pass the time, or even to be entertained (a wonderful side effect). I read *hoping* to add something new to my experience as a reader. Crawford's novel certainly added to that experience, is as unique a work of the imagination as Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman, or Bartheleme's The Dead Father (I could list perhaps a dozen favourite little books). Published in 1972, I was worried it would be dated, but there are no cultural references, no stylistic indulgences, and nothing that screams aren't I clever and postmodern. It's a strangely relevant work of pure invention. It's surreal, hilarious, and tragic. And much as I love the tomes of Gaddis, or Pynchon, or even McElroy, there's something perfect about a 30,000 - 40,000 word 'novel'; it never bores, can be easily read again.

  • Lysia
    2019-03-23 18:42

    It gave me the same feeling I had when I read "Life of Pi" - I think not only because I read this while on the beach in the Dominican, but because I am fascinated by what life on or near the water does to people and their relationships. Nothing seemed odd about the lives and interactions of these characters, although the fact is that if this took place in an apartment in the city it would have a radically different effect on me. I did feel sorry for the loss that Mrs. Unguentine felt for the life she knew, but there seemed to be a period on the barge where she was truly happy. But as a strong-minded woman I would never have let Unguentine treat me or my habitat the way she did. Then again, this was a different time when many women accepted the notion that their husband was their keeper and they were merely chattle.

  • Amy
    2019-04-14 17:49

    I hesitate to call this a love story, but basically that's what it is...a couple on a boat in the middle of the ocean The boat is practically its own island/biosphere complete with plants, a garden, and livestock. At times the couple takes on an Adam and Eve, Garden of Eden quality. Other times we are exposed to the difficulties in the relationship, mainly stemming from the man's alcoholism and unwillingness to speak and the woman's deceit and dissatisfaction. I was entranced by the setting and the magical creative aspects of this very strange story.

  • Terresa
    2019-04-13 14:47

    If Charles Burchfield was a writer, he may have written something like this book, fecund, imaginative, blissed out. The enigmatic Unguentine appears only to disappear. By the end I wanted to give him a thrashing with one of his fake fronds, followed by a hasty retreat of myself and Mrs U. to dry land.For very good reasons, none of that happens, but there exists the lure of the ocean and land, solitude and union, and I am caught in between, enraptured.

  • Christopher
    2019-04-18 10:35

    An insane book that has restored my faith in reading, which was lagging, perhaps because I have been choosing poorly, but also, perhaps, because I needed something like this, something strange and alive. ;)

  • Jeff T.
    2019-04-14 12:43

    An unreliable narrator unfathomably alone on a fantastic ship. A (usually) floating world made of words, (usually) wordless. A barge that is land that is language.

  • Sandra
    2019-03-19 10:33

    beautiful imagery, perfectly contained, emotionally evocative, it lives in my mind like a poem or an old photograph

  • Geoffrey
    2019-04-19 14:53

    Maybe I've just been reading too much avant-garde stuff lately. This wasn't bad, and it certainly wins for strangeness, but I'm not sure it really amounts to much. Dunno. This is a tentative rating.

  • Bbrown
    2019-04-06 10:57

    An interesting genre-bending novella that fills in much of the world and character relationships in passing as the narrative recounts the voyages of a barge-turned-floating-garden. Is it an apocalyptic science fiction tale, or a reimagining of Noah's ark, or something else entirely? All but impossible to say for sure, but one thing that you can know for certain is that Log of the S.S. the Mrs. Unguentine uses this ambiguous story and tangential style of exposition to create a fascinating atmosphere.Despite being only a sliver over one hundred pages this book was not as quick a read as you might expect, as every page contains descriptions of how the barge is growing and changing. Interspersed with those descriptions are details concerning how the rest of the world might be faring, and how the main characters of Mr. and Mrs. Unguentine's relationship is playing out. To say it has its ups and downs is a vast understatement. Instead of making the relationship front and center in the book, as most authors probably would, Crawford puts the barge front and center while the conflict between the two characters is often on the periphery- although always present. I thought it was a more interesting take on the subject than most.That being said, while the atmosphere is fascinating, the setting intriguing, and the relationship explored in a stylistically interesting way, I'm left not particularly satisfied with this book. For one thing the narrative obfuscates the actual events too much to decipher what exactly is occurring- in particular there are two "birth" scenes that I can't make heads nor tails of. Even the central events of the book are left up to interpretation thanks to Mrs. Unguentine's perspective being questionable at best. What exactly is the state of the world? Impossible to say. What exactly happened with Mr. Unguentine and what is his fate? Again, not something we can know. Is there anything concrete that this book is saying, or is it solely concerned with capturing the feeling of a troubled marriage in an original manner? Having left several of the mysteries of this book unsolved I can't say for certain, but the latter is a distinct possibility. That's a fine goal and a worthy accomplishment, but not one that spoke to me.If you're looking for a unique atmosphere, then page for page Log of the S.S. the Mrs. Unguentine can't be beat, but if you're looking for something more substantive I can't say you'll find it here.

  • Brent Legault
    2019-04-04 10:35

    I'm supposed to like this one. Ben Marcus wants me (and you, and anyone with literary taste, with imagination) to like this one. But I don't like this one. And here's why:If you were to strip away its wildness and all it's overgrown but oddly vague details (But then, why would you do that, right? Because that's the story, right? I'd agree with myself if I were talking about style. Because style, in fiction, really is all there is. Or nearly so. But I'm not talking about style, not mostly. Mostly, I'm talking about the story or rather alluding to the story because I'm not one to spill the beans, or to serve the beans, bean by bean, even when, or especially when, the beans aren't all that appetizing. I mean to say, I'm not trying to write Crawford's story for him or even to take away from his sea-foamy imagination. I'm only saying that I somehow found it all to be a kind of filligree, rather than something endemic or intrinsic. I just kind of felt like it was the zeitgeist - early 70's America "avant garde" or quelque chose - and not really natural. Like Gordon Lish, the editor - the great, great editor and arbitor and I'm not being sarcastic, either - had riddden Crawford like a jockey, whipping his story into this, this whimsical and whimsically nonsensical tale.) and just shift settings to an Indiana farm house or New England suburb, all you have is a pretty dull, occasionally funny story of man and wife and the odd ways in which the do or don't communicate their love. What you have, in other words, is Updike. But Crawford could have set it there and kept the same style and then no modern MFA student would be jazzed to read it because it would have long since gone out of print if in print it ever was. So you see, I feel like I read a mock up, a jest, instead of a novella. I like jests, too, except that this one, despite all of its gingerbread, bored me more than a little. Which, yet again, makes me out of step with all things contemporary. (sigh)

  • Ryan
    2019-04-16 11:45

    From the jacket:"Forty years ago I first linked up with Unguentine and we made love on twin-hulled catamarans, sails a-billow, bless the seas... So begins the courtship of a certain Unguentine to the woman we know only as Mrs. Unguentine, the chronicler of their sad, fantastical tale. For forty years, they sail the seas together, alone on a giant land-covered barge of their own devising. They tend their gardens, raise a child, invent an artificial forest--all the while steering clear of civilization. Log of the S.S. The Mrs Unguentine is a masterpiece of modern domestic life, a comic novel of closeness and difficulty, miscommunication and stubborn resolve. Rarely has a book so perfectly registered the secret solitude of marriage, how shared loneliness can result in a powerful bond."This is a weird, short book about marriage. It's a bad marriage, but comfortable in its ways. It's told through allegory - this awesome fantastical barge that is essentially a steerable island. The lonesomeness of marriage is made physical, the focus on the day-to-day, the miscommunication, the love, the ability to ignore huge things to keep your existence moving forward. You're literally on an island, with the outside world nowhere to be seen, and your routine, though it changes, is what you rely on to keep your sanity. You pass notes to your spouse without talking to them, though you love each other. Sometimes when I'm working long hours at my job and barely see my spouse except briefly at night and in the mornings, and mainly exchange information through email and IM, this portrait rings true. It took a few dozen pages to get used to the flow of the narrative, and then you're almost halfway done with the book. I think I'll be casting my memory back to this book for quite some time. Kudos.

  • Kerri Anne
    2019-03-30 13:40

    The first two chapters are light, whimsical, read like a ship is narrating, which is seemingly Crawford's way of setting his readers up to be careened into rocky shores, because this book isn't light, is only whimsical in the way fiction can remain wholly unrealistic while trying to tell some semblance of a real story. Fiction is fiction is fiction is sometimes altogether insane, a cornucopia of visual acid trips, and Mr. and Mrs. Unguentine's floating barge/farm/forest/greenhouse/prison remains a perfect example of visual tomfoolery, and beauty, at its finest. But the idea that two people, married or otherwise, can occupy the same floating home for 40+ years and have actual conversations seemingly never, their primary communication relegated to curt notes left in amusingly practical places, is both unrealistic and maddening. No dialogue and no communication leaves not a whole lot of room for characterization and well-rounded storytelling, and in the end the S.S. Mrs. Unguentine, the ship itself with its stubborn and abundant life refusing to perish even as Mr. Unguentine attempts to altogether uproot it, is much more alive than either of its captains. [Two-point-five stars for boat ingenuity, floating forest creativity, but oh, the painful comma splices.]

  • Xander Kennedy
    2019-04-13 14:44

    Meaty language and an intriguing concept/characters, but the execution was confusing as much as it was anything. As the reader, I was trying to figure out the Truths of this world, but it felt like they kept changing. I'd love to see an illustrated timeline for all the action of this story because it didn't consistently make sense in my head. Just how many lifetimes did they spend on this barge? Again, the descriptions were lush, but sometimes almost to the point of distraction. I'm so used to having a linear progression of events with a clear through-line that the style of this little novel made me work harder to embrace it. I liked Mrs. Unguentine as a character, but so much of her motivation was related to her husband that at times I wished for something stronger from her. I will say that in my head I painted a very enticing image of this barge overgrown with LIFE.

  • wally
    2019-04-02 10:45

    14 apr 16...the 3rd from crawford for me. begins: the name is mrs unguentine. i was not the one born with it, he was. we were married by telephone when the great cable was laid across the ocean floor well before the weather turned so foul; it was the thing to do then, the thing to do indeed. some high priest on a party line made us man and wife or at least did consecrate the phone line, the electrodes, or whatever. and made me drop all my names, maiden, first and middle, the result being mrs unguentine.onward and upward. looks like a fun story. 15 apr 16 finished. 5-stars. i enjoyed it that much consider this one his best of the lot so far...outta what? 3 or 4? you just getting into crawford this is a good place to start course if you already read some others this information comes too late. ummmm.