Who Gives Better Marriage Advice?
In this excerpt from The Marriage Hearse, a love-torn man weighs the marital styles of writer William Faulkner and comedian Mickey Rooney.
In Larry Duberstein’s The Marriage Hearse, East Coast intellectual Maurice Locksley self-analyzes to no end.
He has an ex-wife, a second wife, and a young mistress – and he can’t decide which of the later two would make him the happiest. On the brink of a midlife crisis, Locksley searches for marital advice in an unlikely place: the romantic lifestyles of writer William Faulkner and comedic actor Mickey Rooney.
William Faulkner, himself a writer, once offered some advice on the subject of wives. He said the trick was to keep the first one and simply try to outlast her.
Good wry words from a pithy small-town man who valued his leisure, his ramblings and his ruminations, his pipe and his bourbon, and above all his work. A man must have his range and be at home on it, and to continually muddy the waters of priority with questions of the heart would surely take much away from the peace and quiet of life. If a man will go strewing sons and lovers, wives and daughters about the map, slicing his time and scattering his money, he may very well find there is little of either left for “himself.” . . .
Mind you, I have not forgotten Faulkner’s advice on the subject of wives, wisdom relayed to you on the first proper page of this narrative, namely to retain at all costs the initial one. And if apt, then doubly apt if you are already working on number two! Faulkner’s advice were pithy, reader, it were right pithy, and yet maybe it were also wrong. Or irrelevant. Perhaps it were incomplete. I mean, hey, it is possible to reject a pithy wisdom, all things are possible. What about Mickey Rooney, for example. What’s he had, something like eight wives? One more than the fellow who was going to St. Ives!
But eight of them, spread out over a 40 year period, a sort of Five Year Plan for rotating the crop. Why not do it that way, a fresh wifelet every five years, it makes a little sense. Confusing for the children? No more so surely than all those hours of TV on Saturday morning. And the truth is it’s probably okay, right for some folks and not for some others. More breakthrough thinking: the Rooney Plan for Rooney, the Faulkner Plan for Faulkner!
Now I don’t pretend to know the truth about Faulkner or Rooney. Did Faulkner really hang on to the first one? How did that work out for him, all glibness aside? And Rooney. I don’t know where he got those eight wives, if it was eight, or where they went. Or how he felt about any of it, as it unfolded. I just divided 8 into 40, though it did seem to work out okay, a wife every five years, why not? It’s juke-box gospel, after all, nothing cold as ashes after the fire is gone.