The Incredible Shrinking Wife

by Patricia Keeney,
210 pages,
ISBN: 088753273X

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First Novels - Eunuchs & Opiates
by Eva Tihanyi

Katie Jones, the heroine of Patricia Keeney's The Incredible Shrinking Wife (Black Moss Press, 160 pages, $19.95 paper) is a writer. When the novel opens, she has just turned thirty and is returning to Canada after having spent five years in England. She suffers from angst generated by boredom, wants to be saved from "terminal banality". Her husband, Charlie, is a "nice" guy, but Katie is tired of nice. She's in the mood for exploration-emotional, sexual; she wants excitement, danger. Keeney traces Katie's quest as Katie herself traces the quest of the fictional Liz Lively, the "philandering female poet" who is the main character in her own novel. Liz Lively gets to do all the fun things the guys have been doing all along. Katie's intent is to "turn the tables on all the male poets she'd studied for so many years" who "condemned small lives" and "demanded magnificence every moment." Liz Lively, of course, is Katie's own alter ego. Katie wants it all: the security of home and family, the stability of monogamy, the safety of routine; but also the passion, the unpredictability, the creative spark of being "a roamer and a gambler". Male writers have always had this-have assumed it for themselves-so why can't she? Not surprisingly, guilt plays a major part in Katie's struggle. What price adventure? What price sexual freedom? What price independence? Is she being fair to her small daughter and to her "guardian" husband, an "uncomplaining housekeeper for those he loved"? Where does the actual writing begin and the stereotype of what writers are end? Good questions, and not only for Katie.


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