Looking for Love Stories

15 Feb

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day (or, as it’s known in some cultures, the Festival of Cinnamon Hearts), and I enjoyed reading blogger’s thoughts on their favourite love stories – or lack thereof. Lots of stories have great romances in them (Lyra and Will – swoon!), but are they love stories? Are stories with happy romantic endings (ie. the couple actually ends up together – not separated eternally by parallel universes or genetic time traveling diseases) automatically relegated to the mush pile?

Simon at Savidge Reads and Sasha at Sasha & The Silverfish both mentioned that they haven’t read Pride and Prejudice, a love story favourite. I adore P&P, but not really for the love. Austen’s sassy heroine and powers of subtle sarcasm make this book for me – but Mr. Darcy is a bit of an afterthought. I think of him as more of a prize for Lizzy playing her cards right.

Once you start to think about it, you realize just how few love stories there are in modern literary fiction. Is it because it’s just so hard to make people believe in a happy story? Because writers themselves have especially crappy love lives? I heard once that L.M. Montgomery always had a hard time writing realistic love scenes because it’s not something she really had any personal experience with (would love to get the source for that if anybody knows it).

What are your favourite love stories? How do you think writers manage to avoid mushy territory? With humour, sex, or a bigger overall plotline?

Not creepy at all...

13 Responses to “Looking for Love Stories”

  1. Sasha February 15, 2010 at 3:15 pm #

    I have been reading My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead: Great Love Stories from Chekhov to Munro for months now. As the editor Jeffrey Eugenides put it in his introduction, “Love stories give love a bad name.” It’s draining, actually, haha. It’s quite difficult to find “lurve” love stories in literary fiction–it’s as if “respectable” literature has to reiterate what a crappy thing love is. Oy!

    That’s why, for hardcore escapism, I turn to romance novels. I mean, it’s one thing to learn about love from Vladimir Nabokov. Another from Julia Quinn. I love them both, but the love they talk about are so very different things.

    Good luck on your search for the love story!

    • Lija February 16, 2010 at 10:35 am #

      I like that you’re upfront about ALL your reading habits!

      Any stand-out stories in the Great Love Stories collection?

  2. Lauren February 15, 2010 at 5:52 pm #

    I think the quote about L.M. Montgomery not writing love scenes well was from the introduction to one of my “Emily” books. I can’t remember if it was Alice Munro or Jane Yolen who wrote the intro.

    • Lija February 16, 2010 at 10:35 am #

      Thank you! The fact that you remember that it was either one of them is pretty impressive.

  3. farmlanebooks February 15, 2010 at 7:28 pm #

    I think there are a lot of love stories in contempory books. Modern books tend to have other things going on around the basic love story, but it is still at the heart of a lot of books.

    I’ve just finished Cutting for Stone that contained several wonderful love stories.

    The Time traveller’s Wife is my favourite love story, but I’m planning to read Pride and Prejudice soon, so I’ll let you know if I enjoy your favourite!

    • Lija February 16, 2010 at 10:41 am #

      The Time Traveler’s Wife seems to be the other favourite, and I still haven’t read it. Unfortunately, I saw the movie first and it kind of turned me off…

  4. missrandell February 15, 2010 at 11:25 pm #

    Michael Ondaatje has penned a few toe-curlers, I do believe.

    Anything by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez… “Memories of my Melancholy Whores” was insanely beautiful (and short!) and “One Hundred Years of Solitude” has these crazy-hot lines in it, like “she stood, naked and trembling with love”.

    Oh jeez. So, so hot.

    • Lija February 16, 2010 at 10:42 am #

      Ok, so maybe I only have trouble thinking of love stories that I like!

      I’ve only read Love in the Time of Cholera, and I guess it just didn’t leave a big impression on me. I think I owe One Hundred Years of Solitude a try, though.

  5. savidgereads February 16, 2010 at 12:46 am #

    I do wonder if the reason there are so few big love stories in modern literature is because of the way society is. If you look at divorce rates, affairs and the like we have nowadays love seems a bit old fashioned or not so realistic… but then again I have been an old fashioned kind of guy.

    • Lija February 16, 2010 at 10:45 am #

      That’s kind of what I was wondering. But, it can’t just be because of divorces and stuff (there are still true love stories out there, and we’re talking about authors who can create fictional characters here!), so I think more than anything, it’s just that writing love stories that end happily has become unfashionable.

  6. LisaG February 18, 2010 at 12:48 am #

    Changing Heaven by Jane Urquhart is one of my favourite novels. It’s a story of murder, ghosts (including Emily Bronte), jilted love, and, at the end, a sweet, authentic-sounding love story. It also made me decide that when I die, I would like to haunt a place with a friend for a few centuries before being absorbed into the general landscape (or collective soul, or whatever).

    Check it out> http://www.amazon.ca/Changing-Heaven-Jane-Urquhart/dp/0771086636

    I also like Wuthering Heights, though I think it’s probably a bit melodramatic and gothic for a lot of people.

  7. Lija February 18, 2010 at 11:24 am #

    Thanks for the rec, Lisa. I’ve never read Urquhart, but I’d like to.

    I don’t know why Wuthering Heights never did it for me. I guess it was the whole soulmate, love at first sight thing that I couldn’t quite get past.

  8. Lauren K. February 22, 2010 at 4:16 am #

    Oops…I was wrong. While the afterwords to my “Emily” books do include some passages about L.M. Montgomery’s sad marriage (that’s P.K. Page) and her fear of allowing Emily to end up with a “plausible” lover like Dean Priest (that’s Alice Munro), there isn’t actually a bit about her being unable to write well about love because her own love life sucked. Although I’m sure I read that somewhere too.

    Oh, and it was Jane Urquhart, not Jane Yolen. So I guess my memory is not so impressive after all….

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