So, we’re a few days after Valentine’s Day, and blog-wise I am pulling up the rear, as usual. Happy Valentine’s Day Barb! (For the record, flowers did arrive on the appointed day.)
The issue of Valentine’s Day and books is a little different for me and, in fact, has me a little vexed. Here’s the thing: my view of literature is that “happy, well-adjusted people don’t make good fiction.” So, you know, the heart-warming, live-happily-ever-after Valentine’s Day book probably isn’t in my library.
If only there was a holiday for “living forever in a state of sad acceptance.”
I kid. Remember, we’re talking about my literary tastes, not my human tastes.
So, I have scoured my shelves to try and come up with some books that might qualify for this holiday, if only in a glancing blow. (I have tried to tame my sarcastic side and not mention Bonfire of the Vanities, Anne Tyler, Portnoy’s Complaint, Heartburn or Lolita).
A Sport and a Pastime–if we are willing to concede that for men Valentine’s Day might be more likely to mean S-E-X, then this James Salter classic fits well. It encapsulates the powerful desires that people can feel and how controlling those desires can be. It is also a testament to the power imagination, the sole transformative power we have as humans. (Note, if this was a business blog I would call it vision). I read the book originally because I heard Jami Attenberg describe it as “filthy” on a New York Times Podcast. (A Widow for One Year would slip in–to coin a phrase–under this general category as well).
John Adams–odd, I know, but why not a non-fiction Valentine’s Day book? This is a story about a lot of things, but the relationship between John and Abigail Adams is one for the ages. These people are true Yankees–reserved patricians and they spent year after year separated, but their letters are a testament to the deep affection and trust through troubled times that marks great relationships.
All the food books by Calvin Trillin–Trillin’s books about food are actually love notes written to his wife, Alice. He described her as having a “weird predilection for limiting our family to three meals a day.”
Just Kids--While not romantic in the gynecological sense, Patty Smith’s relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe is the kind of true love story that would have had wine-drunk Greek poets swooning.
Honestly, you look through my reading list and you might think there could be no person less aligned with “Married Book Nerds.”
A few observations after this exercise.
There seem to be no great romance stories that take place in ordinary places. Even All the Light We Cannot See, which chronicles a long-distance relationship of a sort, takes place in a romantic, picturesque setting. Same with Beautiful Ruins. Anything set in our mundane suburbia seems to turn into The Abstinence Teacher or Mrs. Fletcher. The romance genre would confirm this. We seem to need to escape in order to suspend our disbelief.
It seems like some of the stories that succeed are ones where a man finds love after a long life of struggle. You can kind of feel the peace as the couple settles into a quiet old age. See Canada.
Anyway, Happy Valentine’s Day Barb! I think 🙂