Bruce Littlefield’s Moving In: Tales of an Unlicensed Marriage tells the tale of a couple who look to the country side as a respite and oasis from the busy city. This tale isn’t necessarily novel – lots of authors chronicled their journeys of moving from the urban to the rural, but few are as talented, funny, or bright as Littlefield. He laces his writing with a comedian’s sense of humor, peppering his prose with fantastic one-liners and witty asides that will guarantee laugh-out-loud guffaws from his readers.
I was struck at how similar Littlefield’s tale was to the Beekman Boys – another gay couple from New York who decided to migrate to the country side to “get away from it all.” But Littlefield has a much sunnier, lighter take on his time with his partner building a life together than does Josh Kilmer-Purcell who penned the similarly themed The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanies Became Gentlemen Farmers: An Unconventional Memoir. Littlefield’s book, while just as well-written, is also more enjoyable because of the author’s breezy command of comic timing which translates beautifully on the page.
But it’d be a mistake to assume that because Littlefield chooses to tell his story with comedy that the book isn’t substantial or fluff. There are moments of genuine emotion that are sincere – his relationship with Scott Stewart, a successful New York real estate professional, is beautiful in its loving, yet good-natured bickering tone. He doesn’t allow for readers to romanticize or idealize their love, but he’s never mean or cruel with his jokes – instead they’re loving quips that never demean either Stewart or their relationship.
A major part of the move is rebuilding their country home and modernizing some of its ancient features, including turning a well into a fountain and putting in a Jacuzzi. All this is told with a disarming frankness with a wild eye for the absurdity in his situations – some approach even sitcom-levels of farce, as when Littlefield and Stewart had to confront a group of crooked contractors or when their home’s foyer was stained in a particularly unpleasant shade of yellow.
Littlefield is known for his prowess with garage sales, and a lot of the book also has stories of how he fell into his obsession of vintage kitsch and junk collecting. His tales of “winning” on ebay are great – not only does Littlefield have a great voice in this book, but he gifts his partner with a wonderful literary persona – a consummate straight man (no pun intended), necessary for a sterling comic duo like Stewart and Littlefield.
Coined as a successor to legendary columnist Erma Bombeck, Littlefield more than deserves the honorific – one could simply jump into any chapter and find an amusing, funny tale of how he acclimated to his more rural surroundings.
I hope that this will be a series of creative nonfiction work for Littlefield, because he shows a near-genius for this kind of genre. He adapts the domestic comedy to the 21st century – a sort of post-millennial Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. There’s a special talent for crafting smart, adroit light comedy, and Littlefield has that talent in spades – his writing will remind readers of Nora Ephron at her wittiest. Moving In is a wonderful read, assured to make its audiences laugh.