Rectal, Linear

Linda Robertson's husband cheated on her and told her about it. So she wrote it all down.

Best. Book. Title. Ever. Linda Robertson’s memoir recounts the crash-and-burn of her relationship with a tall, thin, slope-shouldered, coke-snorting, ecstasy-swallowing, vodka-swilling chainsmoker who loved anal sex. (She hated it.)

Moving from their native England to San Francisco during the dot-com boom, they married; Jack promptly began hooking up with strangers, then telling Robertson every detail. “She’s so sweet, she didn’t want to take off her shoes,” he exulted after spending the night with someone named Charlene. “She’s really shy with men. … She’s embarrassed about her weight, but she has no reason to be. … Nice arse too — it’s quite big and very cute.” (And darned if she didn’t have other opportunities. During her days as a Cambridge undergrad, Robertson had a blind date with a way-pre-Ali-G Sacha Baron Cohen.) Shamelessly, Jack would chat on the phone with his girlfriends as Robertson, one room away, sat eating dinner alone. A musician, Robertson wrote a series of frank songs (which are reprinted in the book and recorded on an attached CD) about her marital miseries, such as the anal sex. “It feels like I’m defecating, only then/It all decides to come back in again,” goes the penultimate stanza of “No Butts.” As the marriage careened to hell, Robertson found joy performing with a cabaret band, honing skills that eventually win her the title of Ms. Accordion San Francisco 2004.

The memoir, which she’ll discuss at Books Inc. (1344 Park St., Alameda) on September 29, is called What Rhymes With Bastard? “I started writing this book because my house was cold and I wasn’t allowed to turn the heat on,” Robertson reflects now. “When I moved to the U.S., in 2000, I rapidly lost my career, my husband, and my sense of direction … and that’s how I ended up sitting in a café, in front of a fire, tapping my life into a tiny computer. My hapless husband had cheated on me, but told me everything, and I wanted to get it all down before I forgot the words.” Helping her weather the storm that is Jack, described joyously in the memoir, is a parade of quirky friends and colleagues: “the freaks and charmers of the city … mine for the asking,” she calls them now: “magicians, strippers, Satanist landlords.” One pal suggested that making a list of things she disliked about Jack would be therapeutic. “Constipation,” Robertson wrote. “Consequent farting.” “Arms thin relative to thighs.” “Penile varicosity.” “Not silly enough when sober.”

The book, she says now, “began as a portrait of a specific time and place. … Now that it’s done, and all those years of tears and giggles are condensed into a block of paper, it’s shocking to meet strangers who’ve read it, and know more about me than my friends.” So what does rhyme with bastard? Well, it’s obvious: plastered. 7:30 p.m.

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