Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Love stories

A "bouquet of writers" considers romantic books as Valentine's Day approaches.

They offer samplings of poetry including Shakespeare and Neruda, of course. The cases are made for Possession, Love in the Time of Cholera, Rebecca — though none of these inspires in me the feeling of walking on air, that lump in one's throat, butterflies in one's stomach, weak in the knees.

(No one mentions Mark Darcy.)

I don't read many romances. I look at my shelves and I see the romance of ideas and travel, music and books, some great passions and idle flirtations. There's the closeness of families and between strangers, the fraternal love of humankind, and a few sexual escapades. But almost none about Love, the love this holiday devotes itself to.

Here are a few titles — I have fond recollections of the reading of them, being swept up in their romance:

The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, by Oscar Hijuelos: about; excerpt.

An Equal Music, Vikram Seth: about; excerpt.

Music and Silence, by Rose Tremain: review; excerpt.

(Oh! I just noticed: they're all about music!)

I have to mention Mad Love, by André Breton. Not a love story, but by turns meditation and manifesto of love, beauty, and everyday objects. The love of women, of children, and of Paris. The love that inspires one to say "I want you to be madly loved." (Maybe I include this book here only because it was a gift from a lover who was in love with making grand romantic gestures.)

My very favourite love story, as much for its words and characters as for all the associations (of yet other loves) I have inextricably woven into it over the years: The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera. The romance of a place, an era, and ideologies. The soul and the body. Love in its unbearable lightness and infinite weight.
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