Chelsea Martin’s Even Though I Don’t Miss You (Short Flight / Long Drive, 2013) is about the end of a relationship that has only lasted as long as it has due to the momentum of boredom. For some it is easier to just stay together; things are just good enough to confirm inaction, and just bad enough to sustain resentment. The couple isn’t happy, but its misery is toothless. There isn’t much sex but there isn’t any hitting. Might as well stay.
Martin’s slim book is an ode of sorts to this kind of tranquilized companionship, the relationship that is only missed because its conclusion fucks up inertial routines. The book is comprised of very brief entries that are what you could call poems (the narrator does), or you could call structured prose, but feels more like a series of social media missives, digital journaling, a printed blog in careful mind of its audience. There is talent at work, but a talent drenched in navel-gazing ennui and shoulder-shrugging ironic disconnect. It’s hard to tell if this is reflective of Martin or if Martin is cleverly aping this affectation in her fictional narrator. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and lean to the latter, but there are still pages where it’s hard to summon the give-a-shit to care about this character’s pointless observations as they sprout from her hyper-self-awareness and then wither on the page.
There are moments, certainly, when Martin turns some delightful phrases, and these spring from the creative side of that same hyper-self-awareness, the side that makes it past the filter that should have caught the more meaningless mumblings.
I’m drinking wine because I’m trying not to drink anymore. Drinking wine is the closest thing to not drinking that I can manage right now. – page 4
What I look for in a relationship is feeling good all the time, but I’ll settle for feeling bad all the time. – page 22
I said something horrible and I can’t take it back because it has been said already. It is history. For the rest of my life I’ll be the kind of person who says the kind of thing that I said. – page 78
Ultimately the book is about the boringest kind of break up after the boringest kind of relationship, the kind in which neither party is very happy but neither gets hurt all that bad either, and an exploration of whether such a story can hold any more interest than the relationship did. It succeeds in places, but I’d have preferred so see greater patience in teasing out the moments of meaning from the pile of discarded nothings that comprise such a relationship. There are tidbits that perked up my ears in interest, but they are never fleshed out. At one point the narrator talks about her obsession–and awkward proclivity for unpacking said obsession in random conversation–with heat conductivity. That sounds compelling. But it never goes any further than a few brief mentions. The idea had me thinking of the beautiful possibilities of blending scientific pondering and emotional turmoil as found in Sarah Gerard’s devastating Binary Star, but the matter is dropped so rapidly, and so little space is provided anywhere in the book for delving into an idea or emotion beyond the surface, it has to remain the faintest reminder of what Gerard accomplished. Overall, this is my disappointment with Even Though: nearly every potentially compelling idea is like a quickly jotted note in a writer’s journal–Explore this more later. But they’re never explored. They’re left in that journal state.
Even Though I Don’t Miss You is an interesting premise for a book, and at points it is carried off well, but the whole is unsatisfying. It is too insubstantial to reach its goals. I’ll hope for more from the clearly talented Chelsea Martin next time.