The Act of Love

  • Review
By – December 16, 2011

Mas­ter of the com­ic nov­el, Jacob­son (Kaloo­ki Nights, The Mighty Walz­er) explores the life of a Lon­don anti­quar­i­an book­seller, Felix Quinn. Quinn’s life begins to unrav­el after he encour­ages his wife, Marisa, to pur­sue a rela­tion­ship with the young, brash, and hand­some Mar­ius. Vol­un­tar­i­ly cuck­old­ed, Quinn at first enjoys the pain of his wife’s infi­deli­ty, but then begins to regret the grow­ing dis­con­nect between him and Marisa. Quinn’s obses­sion with sex­u­al mores fuels the nar­ra­tion, which is bold­ly and fanat­i­cal­ly con­tem­pla­tive; and the psy­cho­log­i­cal archi­tec­ture of Felix and Marisa’s rela­tion­ship makes the dark love tri­an­gle at the cen­ter of the nov­el alto­geth­er authen­tic and distressing. 

Through Quinn’s sophis­ti­ca­tion and pas­sion for books, Jacob­son also forges pow­er­ful con­nec­tions between the sub­jects of lit­er­a­ture and sex­u­al fan­ta­sy. Quinn describes the fran­tic desire in both his per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al life as one found­ed on a strong curios­i­ty — and one which caus­es him excite­ment and trep­i­da­tion at every turn. Lit­er­ary exam­ples of infi­deli­ty and sex­u­al obses­sion abound: Oth­el­lo, Mol­ly Bloom, Baude­laire, and The Broth­ers Kara­ma­zov all make appear­ances here, and James Joyce even appears as a char­ac­ter. Ulti­mate­ly, Jacobson’s some­times-shock­ing rumi­na­tions on long­ing and voyeuris­tic desire rein­force his place as one of Britain’s most com­pelling lit­er­ary voices.
Phil Sandick is a grad­u­ate of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wis­con­sin-Madi­son. He has taught cours­es in lit­er­a­ture, com­po­si­tion, and cre­ative writ­ing since 2006. Phil is cur­rent­ly study­ing rhetoric and com­po­si­tion at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na-Chapel Hill.

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