Another I, Another You (Magill's Literary Annual 1979)
Best known for his work as a writer, director, and producer of film documentaries about Hollywood movies, and as a film critic for Life and Time magazines, Richard Schickel has crafted a moving and memorable novel about marriage and love in Another I, Another You, a story required by our times. He accurately depicts the relationship between a mature man and woman thrown together by the breakup of their respective marriages, showing their search together, and their searches separately, for reevaluation and redefinition in their lives.
Our society has witnessed the increasing failure of marriage, the loss of love, and the bitterness of divorce. Schickel has confronted these traumas straightforwardly in this timely and engrossing novel. His portrayal of the psychic wounds inflicted by the contemporary marital state is mercilessly honest and, thereby, instructive. There is both wisdom and humor here. There is calculated truth in the book’s jacketed subtitle: “A love story for the once married.” Certainly the narrative will have more resonance, and provide more satisfaction, for those readers who have experienced divorce. Readers who “have been there” will spot immediately, and appreciatively, the discernment which Schickel brings to his task. He shows with knowing poignance the stages, plateaus, and fantasies privy to the divorced. He shows the needs and fears, the peculiar joys of shedding an old life and an old love, and the awesome possibilities of picking up the threads of the new life with the new love.
Schickel draws his book’s title from lines by W. H. Auden: “For every news/means pairing off in twos and twos/Another I, another you.” He captures the mood of contemporary society, in which one no longer asks an acquaintance about a spouse absent from the cocktail party. The ubiquitous answer has become Auden’s “the news.” Even though Schickel stoutly disclaims any autobiographical elements by writing in an authorial note: “I am not I; she is not she: they are not they,” his novel rings true. The crises his characters experience are recognizable and painfully accurate—as if realized by one who indeed has had the new identity of “another I” thrust upon him.
The novel’s major theme concerns the necessary, simultaneously rejuvenating and frightening redefinition of one’s identity after a divorce. As much as a redefinition, the process is a rebirth, fraught with guilts and pangs of kaleidoscopic range. Schickel effectively captures the special tribulations his protagonist undergoes as he tastes the delight of sensual pleasure, only to bring himself up short with feelings of guilt for having allowed himself to feel good. This example is typical of the process: for years a person has been defined by being half of a partnership, part of a checks-and-balances relationship. With the dissolution of that arrangement, the partners become necessarily half-persons for awhile, stumbling along, no longer so clearly defined as before. The challenge of becoming, again, a person who can love and be loved is awesome. Schickel’s novel brings this process into sharp focus by telling the story of a love affair between a man and a woman, both painfully divorced, who had convinced themselves that they were too weary, calloused, and hurt ever to be swept up into an old-fashioned romance again.
Thrown together by chance are David Koerner, the novel’s forty-two-year-old narrator, and Elizabeth Adderley. Friends from the years of their former marriages, they begin seeing each other to assuage loneliness with someone “out of the past.” They each are chagrined to learn that the past is unalterably lost, and that it is no basis for continuing a friendship. Astonished by an...
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