03/07/2008 2:17 PM ET
Lucinda Hoekke and Matthew Plangent broke up their on-again, off-again relationship inside a 1988 art piece that basically looks like a big white crate. They made the decision to stop being loves but not stop being band mates.
Both are in a rock band. Lucinda is the bass player. Matthew is the vocalist. Lucinda bides her time by working for a guy named Falmouth who runs an art gallery in Los Angeles. Matthew gets his paycheck by working as a veterinary nurse at the Los Angeles Zoo.
There's obviously love between the two of them as well as at times unbridled passion, but for some unknown reason, they feel the need to break up for the umpteenth time and they feel the need to do so in an exhibition that features a pair of basketballs floating perfectly in a glass water tank.
They still want to remain friends and band mates, so this is an amicable as well as oft repeated split. They're only concern is how they're separation will affect the band, the other two members of which are Denise, the drummer who works at a porn store with long shelves of vials of frictionless liquids, and Bedwin, the guitarist and lyricist who watches the old film Human Desire by Fritz Land over and over.
YOU DON'T LOVE ME YET is the aftermath of Lucinda and Matthew's breakup and the resulting conflicts that occur within their band. It's not as dramatic as one may think, but it is fairly unusual. Best-selling author Jonathan Lethem focuses his point-of-view on solely what is known through Lucinda's eyes and ears. We follow her to her job, which is answering a phone to a complaint line. We go with her to lunch and to band practices and even into the bedroom.
Lethem breezes through this story, which is just a bit more than a novelette dominated by punchy back-and-forth dialogue that almost is a perfect template for a play or perhaps movie script, a romantic comedy with Meg Ryan or Drew Barrymore as its star.
What I loved most is the ideas and the words that Lethem came up with, which maybe he didn't, maybe they're just products of someone living in Los Angeles, products that naturally lend themselves to mocking by anyone outside of the West Coast, like the idea of an "Aparty," a party where everyone wears headsets playing different music or the idea of the marsupial predicament; that is, kidnapping a female kangaroo and holding it hostage at one's apartment.
The California experience is something I have yet to try, but if it's anything like this, I'm either going to be scratching my head or laughing the whole time.
What I also liked is this book was sexy, very sexy, not pornographic but quite titillating, and I liked the way Lethem pauses to acknowledge as in one paragraph he writes, "Lucinda vibrated, hearing his voice, seeing him here again before her, real... Swimming in her desultory bed sheets Sunday morning she'd masturbated three times... Yet it all seemed less than a parenthesis now... more like a tableaux glimpsed on a television playing in the background somewhere, one no one had thought to switch off."
But, at the end of the story, you see that this is a story about love and longing and how we keep going back for more or how we're always looking for it and how you can determine "the quality of a love affair by the way you feel when you're apart... the quality of a restaurant, by the appetizers. Of a film, by its subplot."
Four Stars out of Five.