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I’m not big on Valentine’s Day. It seems, more than most holidays, to be completely fabricated by the card manufacturers, florists and chocolatiers of the world as a shameless ploy to boost sales during that dreary season between Christmas and Easter. I’m not opposed to flowers or cards and I’m wild about chocolate, so I don’t begrudge the day. I’m not bitter like some folks I know. I just don’t think we should make a great big deal about it. As you’ve likely guessed, I’m no hopeless romantic.
The same attitude informs my reading. I’m no fan of traditional romances and I prefer my literature to contain a minimum of blush-inducing love scenes. I mean, it never even crossed my mind to pick up Fifty Shades of Grey. However, the day has me thinking about romance in literature and, really, it is everywhere. Romantic love plays a key role in literature from the Bible (Song of Solomon is practically steamy) to the works of Shakespeare and Jane Austen and Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Michael Ondaatje and Annie Proulx and Kazuo Ishiguro and on and on.
It makes sense. The early stages of romantic love leave most of us vulnerable, prone to rash declarations, jittery with fear and anticipation, and generally unguarded. The later stages lead to angst and questioning and, often, vague dissatisfaction. Romance is an excellent way to expose a character’s soft underbelly, to lend motivation to rash decisions. It makes even the sanest people temporarily mad. It often ends badly, even tragically. All of this makes for a good read.
So, I’m curious, what love stories move you? Which authors manage to capture the peculiar madness of romance without devolving into clichés or bad metaphor? Who do you love?