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Depraved, depressing but no violence

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The Average American Marriage

By Chad Kultgen

HarperPerennial, 243 pages, $17

IF you've seen one hard-core porn film, you've seen them all, and you probably don't need to read The Average American Marriage.

This meant-to-be-shocking but ultimately numbing novel from California's Chad Kultgen is a sequel to his 2007 offering The Average American Male. Once again, Kultgen uses basic language to present explicit scenes of sex, as well as urination and bowel movements. He makes Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L. James look like a prude.

Kultgen's unnamed average American male (AAM) has now been married for five years and has two children. His wife, Alyna, has lost her figure and her desire for regular sex, so he does a lot of masturbating. Kultgen writes about self-pleasuring as if he's never heard of Portnoy's Complaint.

Inevitably, at his soul-destroying place of work, AAM notices a hot new female intern. ("Hot" is the only adjective Kultgen uses to distinguish someone who is sexy from someone who isn't. In fact, "hot" is repeated almost as often as the f-word.)

Before you can say, "What a plot twist!" AAM is finding a time and place for indulging in sexual intercourse with the intern. Holly, 21, is as hot in the sack as she is to look at.

The sex scenes are repetitive; each subsequent time these two get it on, Kultgen might as well have written, "See pages 82-84."

Meanwhile, Alyna, knowing she hasn't been a vixen in bed lately, wants AAM to go with her to get professional help. Their two visits to a therapist are actually funny.

It's only when Alyna finds out about Holly that the marriage seems in jeopardy, but that doesn't stop AAM, who wants to take advantage of Holly's hotness as long as he can.

Alyna does throw her hubby out of the house and, believe it or not, when he's alone in a hotel room, he starts to miss his kids.

Some readers may be shocked by the language, but there is nothing that hasn't been around since the ban was lifted from Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer (1934) and D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928) in the early '60s.

In his deadpan, sardonic way, Kultgen does raise some questions: Is the average American marriage even close to being this bad? Every time a man meets a woman, does he undress her with his mind and wonder what she's like in bed? Is the wife always the one who loses interest in sex?

At a kid's birthday party, AAM looks at the "dead-eyed fathers" and thinks: "They exist in a mediocre haze, content to serve out the remainder of their lives on the planet attending events like this, f ing their wives without meaning or enthusiasm when it's allowed, performing a job that has no real impact in the world and has no meaning to them personally."

Depraved and depressing as this novel is, it is noteworthy in one good way: There is no violence in it. That's right, there is no gang rape, no physical abuse, no killing, no maiming, not a single gun.

Dave Williamson is a Winnipeg writer whose latest book is a comic novel called Dating.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 16, 2013 J8

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