Furious Love: Chapters 3 and 4

Chapters three and four basically follow Elizabeth and Richard as they continue their affair in both Canada (where Richard is in a production of Hamlet) and in Mexico (where Richard films Night of the Iguana). It is within these chapters that the reader begins to hear about the legendary fights, many witnessed by outsiders. The couple was capable of intense cruelty to one another, with Elizabeth goading Richard into drinking and leaving Richard "close to tears" on one occasion. The details of that particular fight are sketchy, but Richard must have said something about Elizabeth's acting background and lack of theatrical education, and words were exchanged, ending with Elizabeth telling Richard: "You should be more careful, love. One day you might harm more than yourself" (78). I can see her saying these words to him, frigidly and in a way to make her even more "unattainable" (a concept Richard used to describe her sometimes). The fight makes sense in light of information regarding Richard's background and his need for admiration.

When Elizabeth's divorce to Eddie Fisher finally came through (he obviously wanted his piece of the pie), I think that Richard finally felt a sense of ownership in the relationship between himself and Elizabeth.

I loved that his only public statement about their secret marriage was: "Elizabeth Burton and I are very happy" (100).

Another interesting issue that develops in these chapters is the "circus" atmosphere that surrounds the two of them. There is a moment in the book when the authors describe this, even referring to a literal circus that the couple attends while in Mexico. At first, the reference seems to be screaming in our faces: "Look, my readers! I need to use a carefully thought out illustration of real life events matching the metaphor that I want to use!" I was completely annoyed with this. But something does happen at the circus that illuminates Elizabeth's and Richard's personalities. While there, both are taken into the ring and a man throws knives at them. Elizabeth seems to revel in the danger and unflinchingly enjoys the moment. However, and I don't know how much of this story is accurate or what is embellished for literary purposes, Richard seems to only go through it reluctantly--only to show Elizabeth that he, too, can be brave. The moment reminds the reader of a story Richard tells about crossing a bridge (I think) as a child. He was terrified to cross the bridge but knew that he had to do it if he was to prove to his brothers that he was a brave man and a valid member of the family.

So, here is my issue with all of this: If the moment really took place as the authors describe it, then it could be a profound moment for Richard--and for the reader. HOWEVER, one of the co-authors of this book is Nancy Schoenberger, a director of the "Creative Writing Program at the College of William and Mary" (back flap). The reason I mention this is that the merging of the bridge incident with the knife-throwing event seems to lean a bit on the "creative non-fiction" side of things. I enjoyed the parallel on a literary level, but the novelistic intent that emerges from the move REALLY bothers me. It makes me lose a bit of confidence in the book--even as much as I enjoy the salacious material. :)

My other issue is one that has to do with editing: A quote was given in chapter three about Elizabeth and Richard being married...but the marriage had not taken place yet. It is a small thing, but I spent five minutes scanning the previous pages to make sure that I hadn't missed something as big as the marriage. I hadn't. But thinking I had and taking the time to go back and look (when a simple parenthetical note that states the quote came later and that the marriage hadn't taken place yet would have satisfied me) really pissed me off.

Still, I am really enjoying the book, in spite of my criticism. I think that there are positive ideas to be taken away, even this early in the game: live your own life, don't apologize for it, and don't shy from every emotion.


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