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Book offers dark, crass view of married life

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013 1:32 p.m. CDT
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(Photo provided)
This book cover image released by Harper Perennial shows "The Average American Marriage," by Chad Kultgen.

"The Average American Marriage: A Novel" (Harper Perennial), by Chad Kultgen

If you are looking for profanity, "The Average American Marriage: A Novel" offers it in abundance. If you want a narrator's undying obsession with sex and frequent graphic depictions of it, you have found it. If it's an easy, entertaining, done-in-an-afternoon read you're in search of, here it is. If, however, the title has fooled you and you're in search of a happy ending, turn away.

The latest offering from Chad Kultgen, who has made a name for himself as the leading purveyor of "lad lit," gives perhaps the grimmest view of marriage since "Revolutionary Road" graced theaters.

The narrator, who has graduated from his single life in Kultgen's debut, "The Average American Male," offers a glimpse of misery in every facet of his life. He despises his wife and her "hideously disfigured" anatomy, hates his job so much that he views elongated trips to the bathroom as the highlight of his day, and speaks with disdain of his children in a way reminiscent of Louis CK.

Though he doesn't come close to meeting the comedian's level of humor, his manifestations of misery are frequently funny, from the way he wishes he were dead at a child's birthday party to the comparisons of his wife's bedroom dance to that of "the worst strippers I can remember seeing in places like Reseda and Torrance."

Each moment in life, the character believes, is worse than the last, with midlife bringing a slow, painful march to death.

There is no cheering this man, who even views a day at Disneyland with his family as one of the worst of his life. The only escape from the malaise, for both the narrator and the reader, is the character's obsession with a college intern at his office, the main driving force in the plot and the thing that ultimately puts the future of a marriage in doubt.

Despite its dark view of life, and dialogue that often seems stilted, many readers, or men at least, will enjoy the ride. Think "50 Shades of Grey" for the 30-something male. It is crass, lewd and politically incorrect, but also mindlessly fun and engaging. Read it on a plane or a carefree Sunday, just don't read it if you're thinking about walking down the aisle.

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