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by Rachel Ingalls

Download Mrs. Caliban eBook
ISBN:
0876451121
Author:
Rachel Ingalls
Category:
United States
Language:
English
Publisher:
Harvard Common Press; New Ed edition (January 15, 1982)
Pages:
128 pages
EPUB book:
1814 kb
FB2 book:
1735 kb
DJVU:
1893 kb
Other formats
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Rating:
4.4
Votes:
389


Caliban (1982) is a novella by Rachel Ingalls. The plot concerns a lonely housewife who finds companionship with an amphibious sea monster named Larry. The book was reissued in 2017.

Caliban (1982) is a novella by Rachel Ingalls. The novella saw little critical nor commercial success upon release until 1986, when it was named by the British Book Marketing Council as one of the top 20 American novels of the post-World War II period.

I See a Long Journey. Fred forgot three things in a row before he reached the front door on his way to work. Then he remembered that he had wanted to take the paper with him.

In the tradition of The Shape of Water, this perfect novel of a housewife who begins a passionate affair with a sea monster is something of a miracle (The New Yorker). Selected by the British Book Marketing Council as one of the greatest American novels since World War II, Mrs. Caliban, much like Guillermo del Toro’s film The Shape of Water, uses an inter-species romance to explores issues of passion and loneliness, love and loss-and in its own wryly subversive way, it blends surrealism, satire, and a strong female perspective. A literary cult classic, it skillfully combines fairy tale, science fiction, and ho-hum reality (People).

Rachel Ingalls, an American writer living in London, toiled for most of her life in obscurity. In 1986, when one of her books, Mrs. Caliban (1982), was named to a list of best postwar American novels, she earned some recognition, but it was fleeting.

Mrs. Caliban (1983; with an Introduction by Rivka Galchen in the New Directions reissue of 2017) by Rachel Ingalls is a most incredible book. The blurb on the cover from The New Yorker refers to it as A perfect novel. Never a huge success (none of her work has been due to its eclectic nature and, perhaps because she is a woman states David Canfield in Entertainment Weekly), Ingalls’ Mrs. Caliban is getting new attention most likely due to the tremendous film success of another amphibian-man/human female love story, Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water (2017).

work combines subtlety and horror, magic and stark realism, Greek tragedy and happily-ever-afters. Her characters are true to life even as they embody classical archetypes - Icarus, Odysseus, Psyche, people wandering too long, striving too far, watching their loved ones by faint lights. Every volume has written displays the craft of a quite remarkable talent. Tales of love, terror, betrayal and grief, which others would spin out for hundreds of pages, are given the occluded force of poetry. Amanda Craig, Independent. Rachel Ingalls (b. 1940) grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and has lived in London since 1965.

Mrs Caliban’ was first published by Faber and Faber in 1982; ‘I See a Long Journey’, ‘On Ice’ and ‘Blessed . ISBN 978–0–571–29983–6. Rachel Ingalls, Mrs Caliban and other stories. Thank you for reading books on GrayCity.

Mrs Caliban’ was first published by Faber and Faber in 1982; ‘I See a Long Journey’, ‘On Ice’ and ‘Blessed Art Thou’ were first published in Three of a Kind, Faber and Faber, 1985; ‘Friends in the Country’, ‘An Artist’s Life’, ‘In the Act’ and ‘The End of Tragedy’ were first published in The End of Tragedy, Faber and Faber, 1987.

Books for People with Print Disabilities. Internet Archive Books. Gutierres on August 11, 2011.

John UpdikeFirst published in 1982, Mrs Caliban was in 1986 selected by the British Book Marketing Council as one of the 20 best post-war American novels. Ingalls takes a B-movie premise (aquatic humanoid escapes from lab) and pounds it into a thrilling new shape - a vehicle for social satire, kitchen-sink realism, surreal domesticity, and just plain blood-curdling screams

I loved Mrs. Caliban. So deft and austere in its prose, so drolly casual in its fantasy...— John Updike
  • Cenneel
There was a great deal of buzz on Twitter about this novel's reissue, articles about its cult-status, NPR mentions, it was the thing all the cool literary kids were talking about, and so, that I'd never heard of nor read it pushed all my "I wanna be popular, too" buttons and I quickly ordered a used copy.

Novella rather than novel, this allegorical romantic-tragic-comic --- okay, this un-categorizable romp is a feminist --- no, a humanist --- no, a satirical --- no, a fable of --- no, a lyrical --- no, a political --- you see the problem?

Ignored when released in 1982, its naming in 1986 by the British Book Marketing Council as one of the twenty greatest American novels since World War II still failed to earn Mrs. Caliban a permanent place on the list of must read classics but, luckily, it has been sustained by its inclusion in many a literary fiction MFA curriculum.

Having lost two children, trapped in a marriage of resigned, passionless suburban-ennui with an adulterous, deceiving husband, Dorothy Caliban, numbed and defeated into surrender by choices made and not, is making salad one day when "... a gigantic six-foot-seven-inch frog-like creature shouldered its way into the house and stood stock-still in front of her, crouching slightly, and staring straight at her face." She's met Larry.

Larry has been held captive, experimented on and tortured by government researchers who he's killed in order to escape. Dorothy sympathizes, offers him sanctuary, and soon enough, they fall into one another --- physically, emotionally, spiritually --- as she hides him, unbeknownst to her oblivious husband --- in a room off her kitchen, where Larry learns about Dorothy's world from television and radio programmes. Thus is set into motion a series of events revealing fissures, cracks, and facades in the lives of Dorothy, her husband and friends, and the world in which she lives, a world she tells Larry is "all right" now that he is in it.

Is Larry real? A fantasy onto which Mrs. Caliban projects her dissatisfaction with her limited, disappointing life? Is this a modern Beauty and the Beast? Or, is this feminist social-theory writ ironic? It is, I think, all those things and more, a concupiscent conflagration of marvelous writing, imaginative use of plot tropes, humor, pathos, and technique, all of which is entertaining. Imagine an episode of The Twilight Zone as written by Elizabeth McCracken and directed by Baz Luhrman; the implausible and outrageous made believable and beautiful.
  • dermeco
In her mid-life, Dorothy’s life is far from the best. She’s experienced the unexpected death of her young son, lost a baby, has only one real, close friend, and has a husband who both ignores and cheats on her. Hers is a sad life. But her life changes considerably the day Larry walks through her backdoor—Larry who the radio news announcer describes as a “creature” escaped from “the Jefferson Institute for Oceanographic Research” after horribly mutilating its keeper and the scientist studying the “Monsterman” after capturing it on a “South American expedition.” Larry—with eyes “seemingly much larger than the eyes of a human being, and extremely deep” standing six-foot-seven-inches tall with a head “quite like the head of a frog, but rounder,” webbed hands and feet, and a body “exactly like a man—a well-built large man—except he was a dark spotted green brown in colour and had no hair anywhere.” Larry—who is taught to speak at the Institute and declares his keepers “had mistreated him” and forced him to “participate in various forms of sexual abuse, some of which [Dorothy] hadn’t known of before.” Larry—who Dorothy hides away in a back room of the house where her husband never goes—and becomes Dorothy’s lover. Larry—who makes Dorothy happy again.

Mrs. Caliban (1983; with an Introduction by Rivka Galchen in the New Directions reissue of 2017) by Rachel Ingalls is a most incredible book. The blurb on the cover from The New Yorker refers to it as “A perfect novel.” Never a huge success (none of her work has been due to its eclectic nature and, perhaps because she is a woman states David Canfield in Entertainment Weekly), Ingalls’ Mrs. Caliban is getting new attention most likely due to the tremendous film success of another amphibian-man/human female love story, Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water (2017). Ingall’s novella, however, has been praised by authors such as John Updike, Joyce Carol Oates, and Daniel Handler (Entertainment Weekly) since its release.

As surreal as Dorothy’s acceptance of the sea-monster Larry appears to be and the sexual affair they have (which is never explicitly detailed), the novella also has in it moments of sudden (off-stage) murder, infidelity, duplicity, and violence. Inhuman weaknesses are countlessly on display. But don’t for a moment believe that Mrs. Caliban is a horror novel. Ingalls tells her story in such an off-hand, even jovial narrative voice that the distressing moments contained within the work seem as every-day as shopping for avocados. Readers will not find themselves horrified or even shocked, but truly enchanted as they step into Dorothy’s world long before Larry appears (and he doesn’t appear until nearly twenty pages into the work).

As Larry gets more restless and is filled with questions about humans from watching TV and venturing out among them in disguise, as Dorothy learns more about her best friend’s personal life, as Dorothy’s husband continues his secretiveness, as more victims allegedly fall “to the bloodlust of this creature,” and Dorothy and Larry take their relationship to increasingly new heights, readers turn the pages of Mrs. Caliban in awe, wondering how things are going to turn out, with any “willing suspension of disbelief” left far behind.

There is one point of ambiguity in Mrs. Caliban that is never fully addressed. At the beginning of the story Dorothy hears secret, short messages emitting from her very old radio that “looked like a 1930s Gothic cathedral… that couldn’t possibly be real.” Only she can hear them. Are they products of her vivid imagination? And could Larry, after the newscast of the “monsterman’s escape” who is never seen by anyone but Dorothy (although he comes home wounded from an attack by strangers with dire consequences), also be imaginary? Such is the magic of Ingalls’ writing that the reader will never know, and it really doesn’t matter.

The climax of the novella is surprisingly intense and the conclusion heart-grabbing. Mrs. Caliban is, indeed, a “perfect novel” without a single, wasted word and readers are bound to be left wondering what other treasures by Rachel Ingalls await re-discovery.
  • Xal
I recently saw The Shape of Water and, feeling underwhelmed by the execution of its brilliant premise, figured I'd read this book that presents a very similar story.

Larry is a talking sea monster who loves avocados. (Who can blame him, honestly?) After escaping from a duo of sadistic scientists who captured him, he shows up at the door of a lonely housewife named Dorothy and reinvigorates her mundane life.

This being a slim novella, there's very little room for setup or explanation. In fact, the casual and matter-of-fact way that the relationship between Larry and Dorothy plays out is part of its charm. She accepts him into her life immediately, allowing him to fill the void left by her unhappy marriage and the recent death of her child.

Is Larry real, or is he merely Dorothy's fantasy—the antithesis of her husband and her boring existence? This quirky and charming little novel is also a biting work of social satire and feminist fiction, existing in the gap between reality and fantasy, grief and joy, acquiescence and agency.
  • Pruster
I don't understand the good reviews and certainly not calling this a "perfect" novel. It surely had an interesting and compelling premise, but most of what happens outside of this central idea is mundane, boring and predictable. Perhaps it needs to be to help us accept the fantastical relationship at its core, but I still found it brain-numbing. On the other hand, there is not enough detail given to the development of the pivotal romance for us to believe in it or care very deeply. This is rather an ambiguous, ambivalent review ... but I guess that sums up how I feel about this novella.