There’s a joke that pretty much encapsulates the central Weltanschauung (outlook) of Alissa Nutting’s latest novel, Made for Love: “Tell someone you love them today, because life is short. But shout it at them in German, because life is also terrifying and confusing.”
Nutting, the award-winning author of Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls, drops us in the middle of a mildly dystopian near-future (2019), in which her ensemble cast resembles a box of emotionally damaged (and delightfully neurotic) misfit toys. Hazel Green is trying to escape a loveless marriage to high-tech magnate Byron Gogol, whose character combines elements of Steve Jobs, Svengali and Humbert Humbert. In order to put some distance between herself and her cyber-stalking soon-to-be-ex, she unexpectedly moves into her widower father’s double-wide, where he is residing with Diane, a disturbingly lifelike sex doll. Meanwhile, Jasper Kesper’s accidental amorous encounter with a dolphin has turned him from a con artist and gigolo into an unwitting cetophile.
What could possibly go wrong?
Turns out that William Congreve got it wrong when he opined back in 1697 that “Heaven has no rage, like love to hatred turned / Nor hell a fury, like a woman scorned.” All Hazel wants is to get away from a seemingly omnipotent husband who has planted a chip in her head (so as to effect a digital mind meld). It’s Byron who is filled with a sort of low-affect fury, because Hazel’s defiance represents a personal and professional setback, both of which he finds unacceptable.
All these madcap threads weave into a tapestry worthy of such surreal comic authors as Christopher Moore or Dave Barry, but the novel is underpinned by a profound meditation on the nature of love, and how it not only comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, but also materials and species.
Thane Tierney lives in Inglewood, California, and likes dolphins, but draws the line there.