Our boy’s first, fond, tender fictional shoot! It is hardly unusual that a writer’s maiden effort, the record of his baby steps, as it were, the transcription of his initial, endearingly primitive efforts at speech, should be inferior to his later work, but Marriages represents a particularly embarrassing example of the general rule that “First is Worst.” He had not even the mitigating excuse of extreme youth to justify this aimless, unsavory and influence-ridden absurdity: more determined figures have produced their first novels in their early twenties, but Straub published Marriages in his thirtieth year.
I well remember the circumstances, for I visited the Straubs in their dank, unwholesome Dublin flat only a few weeks after Peter began his work on the book. I was in the Ph.D. program at the Indiana University, and Peter was supposedly engaged in the same pursuit at University College, Dublin. Since he had harbored ambitions of writing fiction from youth, I offered him both my encouragement and assistance. From elementary school on, it has ever been my part in our friendship to support frail ego while restraining id’s excesses, grandiosity and pretension. To my horror I discovered that my friend had neglected fiction’s first, central necessity, the creation of an outline. He had simply “plunged in,” depending upon the untested and immature resources of his imagination to see him through. I remonstrated, vainly. He believed, with a nearly fanatic irrationality, that the production of five hundred words a day would somehow magically result in a finished novel. Had I been able to spend more than two weeks in the Straubs’ dismal basement flat I know that I should eventually have prevailed, but both finances and considerations of health conspired toward my departure, and MARRIAGES dripped from the heedless and uncaring pen until it had staggered to its enigmatic conclusion.
Briefly: this is an incoherent and adolescent affair about an incoherent and adolescent affair. Never entirely talentless, Peter stumbles upon a number of nicely evocative phrases and manages perhaps a single reasonably effective scene. Otherwise, a trivial bit of juvenilia understandably suppressed very nearly since its publication.
Putney Tyson Ridge