Fiction Collective Two is an author-run, not-for-profit publisher of artistically adventurous, non-traditional fiction.

Separate Hours

Separate Hours

Separate Hours
by Jonathan Baumbach

1990. 204 pp.
ISBN 978-0-932511-28-7
Price: $10.95


A disturbingly honest, elegantly imagined unveiling of the way truth becomes elusive in a long-term relationship, Separate Hours is a love story about the betrayal of love. Yuri and Adrienne Tipton, both psychotherapists, conduct their separate practices in a shared basement office in an upper Westside New York brownstone. They also share a ten-year-old daughter, a too-comfortable life, an apparently happy marriage, and a connectedness that blurs the edges of their separate identities. Who is telling the real truth? Can either of the novel's narrators be taken at their word? Adrienne and Yuri tell the story of their life together (and apart), trying to make sense of the darkly irrational. When Adrienne claims that in a movie of their lives, she would be the more sympathetic character, the novel, to test her premise, gives us a possible scenario for the movie. In the further quixotic pursuit of clarity, the novel turns Yuri and Adrienne's marriage into a case study prepared for a psychoanalytic journal. Separate Hours zeroes in on their marriage and the few things outside that come close enough to get caught in its tentacles. For all the novel's comic elements, it underlying vision is dark. From the moment of Yuri and Adrienne's initial meeting, they embrace the conflict. Although they appear to understand what drives them, their behavior for the most part is blindly compulsive and deathbent. Self-knowledge has little impact of how they live their lives. Baumbach's seventh novel examines a postmodern marriage in crisis, as if it were a "patient etherized upon a table."

"This is Jonathan Baumbach's most accessible novel and should win him a large readership." —Bharati Mukherjee

"Baumbach employs a variety of narrative voices in his well-crafted new novel, but none of them, he makes it clear, are to be trusted. Obtusely analytical Manhattan psychotherapists Yuri and Adrienne Tipton take turns describing the tortured, slow-motion disintegration of their "relentlessly painful relationship." Baumbach perfectly captures the bland analysts' language that disguises scathing verbal abuse as simple observation. " —Publisher's Weekly



As a psychoanalyst, I am a profound believer in middles, in the life itself. Beginnings and ends are the stuff of fantasy. I once imagined that if I ever wrote the story of my life I would begin by saying, "Call me Shrink," a remark which offers the form of a joke without its substance and so disarms the reader by its foolishness. Someone so unguarded, someone toward whom you feel immediately superior, cannot be other than trustworthy. Watch out for me. I am full of tricks.

The aetiology of my condition was arrogance. I was, let me confess, overwhelmingly content with my life—with my career as analyst, with my brilliant and beautiful wife, with my precocious daughter, with my elegant West Side brownstone. I floated in the ether of contentment. Routine sustained me. So many hours a week of private practice, so many hours at the hospital, so many hours teaching a course at the university, so many hours with my family, so many hours writing my book. I was occupied from morning to night with matters of consequence. Let me say it now—it will not come out soon enough—my wife Adrienne (my former wife Adrienne) is also a therapist. It gave us a common language, a common point of reference. I liked that, had come to it by premeditated choice. I had a companion with whom I could share the things that mattered, I thought, most to me. We had as good a marriage in our way, as intimate a friendship, as anyone we knew. We got along, didn't we? We got along famously, performed our roles with impressive conviction. I remind myself that this is the account of a man who saw only what it suited him to see. We had the appearance, the illusion, of a happy marriage.

In taking you into my confidence, I am playing a kind of confidence game. I want you to perceive me as a trustworthy witness, someone who will tell the truth even to his own disadvantage. My sanity has been thrown into question by Adrienne's opposing version of our shared reality. I leave it to you: which of us is unable to separate reality from wish. If one of us is telling the truth, the other, says reflex, is an extraordinarily persuasive lunatic. I begin with my first meeting with Adrienne.