Friday, October 26, 2018

Mrs Caliban

Mrs Caliban / Rachel Ingalls
Boston: Harvard Common Press, 1983, c1982.
125 p.

What a very odd little book, a discovery on a recent trip to Attic Books. It was in the bargain basement, I thought I'd heard about it somewhere, and so it came home with me.

And it was a super read for this season, a strange combination of domestic realism and pulp horror, with an escaped Frogman monster showing up in neglected housewife Dorothy's kitchen.

He asks for help; she matter-of-factly gives it. Since Dorothy's husband is hardly home anymore and pays no attention to her, she finds it easy to smuggle her aquatic escapee into the spare room where he stays while the police search the streets for this "Dangerous Monster".

And then Dorothy and her 6'7" monster, Larry, fall into a physical love affair. She tries to make his life more comfortable and interesting by taking him for night drives, and when they go to the shore she hears more of his life story as an aquatic life form. And through Dorothy's explanations of life and her societal norms to him, we hear the author's presentation of love, marriage, and a housewife's place in the world.

Dorothy's husband Fred has a predilection for affairs, and Dorothy loses things and people one after another. Their relationship is kind of dark and dream-like, with the type of slow-motion cartoonish violence or activity that you might feel in a dream. I'm not quite sure how the appearance of Larry reflects their marriage, but it's clear that the spark is gone there and that Dorothy needs to get out of Kansas, so to speak. 

This book was a surprise, an unexpected combination of serious relationship dramas and totally over the top monster movie tropes. It's odd, baffling, and also really entertaining. Well worth the brief time it takes to investigate this novella; I have a feeling I'll have to reread it to really get a handle on this story. Until then, if you are looking for a monsterish love story, try this out yourself!

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