This post may well be shorter than the title of the book I’m writing about.
The book in question today is titled Love Is Not Constantly Wondering If You Are Making The Biggest Mistake Of Your Life, written anonymously and published right here… in Portland, Oregon. Hurrah for the independent press and hurrah for authors who aren’t afraid to tackle big issues with weird interruptions of science fiction.
Love Is Not Constantly Wondering If You Are Making The Biggest Mistake Of Your Life
Anonymous (Illus. Sarah Miller)
Perfect Day Publishing
November 2011 (Second Printing)
Obviously, from the cover, we’re going with a Choose Your Own Adventure style. And even the book’s layout gives you choices (If You Do This, Turn To This Date, etc.), but the book warns you that it isn’t meant to be read that way. So why have the whole thing set up to look like a Choose Your Own Adventure?
The most obvious (or perhaps too obvious) reason would be to show that there’s always a choice… even when there isn’t. After all, the entirety of the plot is a story about how you got into this crazy relationship with an alcoholic named Anne… that you just can’t seem to extract yourself from (yes, like the Choose Your Own books, this is in a second-person narrative). You have the choice to just leave it all behind, but you can’t.
Instead of ending it, you make other decisions and the relationship continues. So, even though you’re presented with choices (you the narrator, not you the reader), the only real choice is to stick with it, because (as the narrator states), “you realize there was no possible outcome besides the one in front of you now.”
OK, this is confusing. From here on out, “you” the character is just going to be referred to as the narrator. Razza frazza second-person narratives…
Despite the seriousness of the narrative, there are a lot of funny moments interspersed throughout. The narrator questioning if Anne may have been created as part of the Weapon X program, the narrator celebrating Anne’s first time completing Super Mario World, constantly saying, “You have a bad feeling about this,” and the long stream of fuck that follows the discovery of Anne’s pregnancy (120 if I counted correctly), all very funny moments that provide much-needed levity once you realize the narrator won’t be getting out of the self-destructive relationship.
Plus many of the references are super-nerdy and… well I’m also super-nerdy and really appreciate them.
The science fiction elements are mostly presented through choices and accompanying illustrations, but the choices almost always parallel a choice the narrator has to make in the story. For instance, on the page dated October 20, 2004, the narrator questions his love for Anne, and wonders if he can put up with her unmedicated. The corresponding “choices” at the bottom of the page are to pull the Ant-Warrior up from the ledge, or to let him fall to his death.
The truly ingenious part of this, though, is that the pages it redirects you to are earlier arguments and fights the narrator had with Anne, which shows the cyclical nature of his fucked up relationship. In the end, the reader must choose to just keep reading, and watch the narrator dig himself in even deeper in a truly distressing relationship.
At the very end, the narrator has a break in his sanity and the science fiction world of Ant-Warriors, laser pistols, and nutrient pools becomes the real world for him… and it’s probably the saddest moment in the novel because you see the narrator retreating into a fantasy world to escape his troubles… not terribly unlike Anne’s retreat into alcohol.
And there the book ends… Despite the serious subject matter, the author is able to give moments of humor that temper the darkness that would otherwise envelop and swallow any normal reader. The references to pop culture are numerous (and geeky… a Gremlins reference? wow…), but aren’t overbearing in any way.
The narrator has an ironic, detached tone through the early part of the book that eventually gives way to anger, sadness, and frustration in such a heart-breaking manner that you want to scream at him to just get out.
But does he? How does the relationship end? You’ll have to buy the book to find out. Copies are available at Powell’s, Reading Frenzy, and at the Perfect Day Publishing website. Skip a cup of coffee and dig into one of the best indie published books of the last year!