‘What excites you?’ a girl asks the hero at a party. ‘Art’, he replies. Speaking of the heroine, the girl continues: ‘And Marietta, what excites her?’. ‘Risk’, he says. The girl interprets this to mean ‘sex’. And she is not mistaken. Indeed, Mara, Marietta is a love story told primarily through art and sex. In a heady cocktail of music, dance, cinema, sex, painting and poetry, the story moves from Princeton to Paris, and from there radiates out around the world.
She is a theoretical physicist and a musician, he a poet and rock song lyricist. They meet in New Jersey, say goodbye, then meet by chance three years later in Paris. In a midnight bar he tells her he’s having trouble with the novel he’s writing. She says, ‘Tell the truth. That often makes the best fiction’. He asks her how. She says, ‘Have you ever had your heart broken? I mean really broken, so that you had nothing left but your eyes to cry with? That would strip you down to your truth’. He says he hasn’t, then asks her, ‘Will you do it for me?’. ‘Do what?’ ‘Break my heart.’ Softly, but distinctly, she says, ‘Yes, I will’. Between two beats of his heart he hears himself say, ‘Thank you’.
After seven years together she leaves him, in a way rarely, if ever, seen in fiction. From then on he begins writing her a ‘very long love letter’, one that moves from magical realism to a cinematic depiction of all they have lived together. (By the way, if you haven’t guessed, the letter is the novel itself.)
From the archaeology of childhood to the founding of an ethics, from the investigation of desire to the affirmation of life as creation, the lovers discover through each other at once their own buried history and the deepest intimacy of the other.
Mara, Marietta: A Love Story in 77 Bedrooms is neither for cheap-thrill seekers nor for readers who only seek new twists on stale conventions. Rather, it is a tale for adults who are unafraid to open their hearts and minds to the intelligence of the body and the soul.
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