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I am now about to do something truly singular.  Nowhere else on the planet will you read a text that compares David Grossman's To the End of the Land with Noel Coward's Design for Living.  Google it if you don't believe me: only one text combines those two titles, and it's this blog post.  Prepare to experience the totally unique!

Now that you're prepared, allow me to share my thought process that led me to this surprising juxtaposition.  I found myself disturbed by several contrivances in To the End of the Land.  Of course, all literature depends on contrivances, but to operate effectively the contrivances have to find themselves in an accommodating context.  A poisoned glass of wine sipped by an unintended victim works fine in Elizabethan drama (e.g., Hamlet, Women Beware Women), but it's going to flop in a Jane Austen novel. 

By the same token, the threesome at the core of To the End of the Land struck me as an element of contrivance that defied assimilation into the novel's reality.  Ilan is rigid, unimaginative, unappreciative, emotionally choked - he's so much lesser than Avram or Ora, that he seems an implausible candidate as a beloved (platonic or otherwise) for either.

At bottom, I didn't believe it.  The following question kept surfacing: do two men and a woman really love each other and sleep with each other and have kids with each other and raise each other's kids - not as something that happened at a party, or over the course of a drug-addled summer during a transitional point in one's life - but over a thirty year period?  Does this kind of thing happen?

My reflexive answer to that question was, "It worked in Design for Living, but in To the End of the Land it's a contrivance."  Otto, Leo and Gilda are, after all, artists, aesthetes and, in certain significant instances, bisexual.  They're cosmopolitan and glib.  It's a comedy.

But my next thought was: what the hell am I talking about, Design for Living was totally contrived!  Otto's and Leo's competition for Gilda never makes sense because Gilda's such a blah nothing.  The whole set-up is an elaborate contraption through which Coward snuck homosexuality into the subtext of mainstream theater.  It's not a description of reality.  If Coward could have written openly about gay life, we'd never have heard a peep about Gilda.

The appeal to writers of threesomes is obvious, so it is with some sadness that I tentatively propose that threesomes are, as yet (to my awareness), a contrivance in search of a context that can handle them.  Greater work remains to be done realizing threesomes in life before writers can nail the phenomenon on the page.  Prepare yourselves.
(Image of Coward, Lunt and Fontanne in Design for Living from Wikipedia)

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