Monday, May 21, 2012

Art of marriage: A guide to living life as two

Art of marriage: A guide to living life as two
By Catherine Blyth

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II

First and foremost, please realize at the outset that Catherine Blyth is English; thus, you will find scattered throughout this little book delightful English terms and turns of phrase.  If for no other reason, I liked this book for her graceful, charming use of language.  Examine, for example (and there are many) this delightful paragraph:

        “Sadly, for all couples there comes a moment when sex is a dilemma.  When you find yourselves arguing about who did not wash up, and little by little, lust’s soufflĂ© sinks in the cool air of Getting On with It.  At this point, some fear that they have married the wrong person.  But this not a time to retreat to the baked bean-sequined defeat of a tracksuit.  Love is not dead; better to consider that its three dimensions have been absorbed, and the long game of marriage has now begun” (p. 119).

Call it unnecessary gibberish, or hoity-toity pretentiousness, if you will, but I wonder if any other author could or would write like this?  If you don’t like this kind of writing, avoid this book!  (Many of the examples she uses, too, are from English history and royalty.)

I found the gray boxes inserted in chapters interesting.  They were enjoyable to read and offered additional insights and information.  Necessary?  Of course not.  But fun.

Another thing I found interesting about this book is Blyth’s use of examples — especially those from history.  Although there is a “Selected Bibliography” of seven pages, the sources she uses represent her very broad reading of books, many as you would suspect published by English presses.  There are no footnotes, but she gives general references for most of her quotations.  Quotations occur often.

Something readers must understand about this book is that we’re not talking about well-researched, documented, scientifically-based advice here.  We’re talking instead about “a writer, columnist, and editor” (from the back flyleaf) offering her views and values.  Nothing more.  Oh, she may say something like, “Contemporary experts find that two dimensions matter in parenting . . . ,” but there is no footnote for such a statement, and you have to take Blyth’s word for its veracity.  There is nothing wrong with this.  At some points she will offer a citation, as in the following:

        “Marriage is the best welfare plan that money cannot buy.  Its economics of scale make us richer in the long run (as noted above, unmarried women were 86 percent poorer, and bachelors 61 percent poorer than the married or widowed, in 1992's U.S. Health and Retirement Study)” (p. 189).

Many readers need nothing more, and her brief notations 1) are sufficient, 2) do not get in the way of a good read, and 3) add to her credibility sufficiently enough to make her observations and advice sound.  I have no quarrel with this; however, having done the research and read as widely as she has, it would be nice to have the footnotes.  (She could even have placed them online at the book’s web site as some authors have done.)

To give you even more of a sample of what is in the book and how Blyth writes, I have selected this piece from Chapter 11, “The A to Z of Marriage”:

        “Like its companion antisocial activities — pocket billiards, biting nails, burping, farting — we tend to be particularly annoyed by spouses’ nose picking.  Not because it is not fun but because it is fun only for one.  It is also a poor spectator sport.  To do it shows a lover how relaxed you are in their company, which is nice as far as it goes.  But in a bad mood, the sight of that unself-conscious finger, winkling it furry cavity, may be an unwelcome invasion of privacy, or even suggest that its owner does not care if you do not fancy them, since they no longer fancy you” (p. 240).

Notice her use of the words “winkling” and “fancy.”  Also, notice that “we tend to be particularly annoyed” comes strictly from her observations — nothing more.  And if there is a source, it is not provided.

When all is said and done, I enjoyed the book.  She tells good stories, offers interesting quotations, and writes in a lively, entertaining style.  She has a subtle, but delightful, sense of humor that is engaging — and, as I said, I love her language.  Four stars out of five!


  1. What a nice and interesting post! Thanks for sharing this one.

  2. This book is surely a great help to me! I've been collecting lots of books and other articles about marriage so that sooner or later if I get married it will surely a great help. I would be glad to purchase this one.


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