Books of Love:
Dangerous Liasons in Literature
or, If I Told You We Could Have Some Fun Between the Sheets, Would You
Throw the Book at Me?
by Heather Hewett
Even if you slept through your college
English classes, you needn't give up on books. In fact, gentle reader, books
can stimulate not only your mind but your love life as well. How, you ask? Read
on for a collection of literary lights that will illuminate your search for
a soul mate... or at least a date. Let us begin at the Beginning.
Saying goodbye is difficult, but it's also means you're beginning a brand new
chapter in your (temporarily) solitary life. What better way to begin a newly
single phase than with a book? Books can be your best friends in times of loneliness.
Why else do people persist in asking the question, "If you were stranded on
a desert island, and you could bring one book, what would it be?" (This question,
by the way, will kill a first date the way Moby Dick will kill a cockroach.)
Ice cream flavors come and go, but your choice of books at this juncture is
critical. And the BTD -- you saw this coming -- is here to help. Let's go to
For sheer wit and toughness, the BTD suggests the following:
Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding. Bridget's escapades as a "singleton"
surrounded by "Smug Marrieds" provides plenty of twists to the classic Austen
tale. As she struggles with her wildly fluctuating poundage and everyone else's
"emotional fuckwittage," you'll cheer the thirty-something Bridget on, share
her indignations, and chuckle at your
own predicament as seen through the prism of Fielding's sharp satire on
Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing. The story of one
man, his ship, and his unfortunate and very cold altercation with Antarctic
ice. It lends perspective to the most dire of romantic straits.
Little Black Books
If you're feeling bleak, and don't want to be cheered up, that's okay too.
There are plenty of dark books that will match your mood and, in fact, make
you realize how fortunate you really are. Here are some classics guaranteed
to make your devastating situation seem like a minor inconvenience:
House by Charles Dickens. There is one adjective that best describes
Dickens's satire on the Byzantine
legal system in Victorian England: long. By the time you emerge from this
one, and you'll be ready to move on in more ways than one.
of a Lady by Henry James. James' dark psychological thriller follows
the fortunes of independent American heiress Isabel Archer, her suitor Caspar
Goodwood, and the mysterious aesthete Gilbert Osmond. This is disturbing stuff,
strong enough to make you swear off romance for at least a little while. Stay
away from Jane Campion's film
version starring Nicole Kidman and John Malkovich, whose innate creepiness
gives you the permanent willies. [Talking beans! Yechh!
Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. This ripping read chronicles the tragic results
of a loveless marriage and a passionate affair. It's grand enough to sweep
you away for several weeks, at least.
Rediscovering Your Spine
So you're ready to get Out There again. Never fear: the literary world provides
plenty of works that will light your fire and show you what True Love can be
like. Read the following love stories from around the world and you too will
in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. A haunting tale
of unrequited love, Garcia's masterpiece follows Florentino Ariza's half-a-century
passion for the haughty Fermina Diaz.
English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. In the pre-war North African
desert, Ondaatje recounts the memories of an English patient's doomed love
affair and his undying love. Another book made into a movie,
but there's a lot more romance in the book.
Letters of Abelard and Heloise. Heat up your imagination with this
fiery tale of the forbidden lust (and secret marriage!) of Parisians Abelard
and Heloise. The French know how to do it right, even back in the 12th century.
(Readers, take note: you are likely to swoon under the spell of these passionate
tales. Read them while standing in line at the bank, or taking the subway to
work, and position yourself next to someone who looks likely to help you back
to your feet when the passion overtakes you.)
In romance, as in so many things, the intelligent novice will first go to
the reference shelf for guidance. No, I'm not talking about Dating
for Dummies or any of its cousins. There's plenty of fiction out there that
demonstrates What To Do and What Not To Do. Some of the finer selections include:
Art of Courtly Love by Andreas Capellanus. Yes, this is the Guide
to End All Guides and it tells you precisely how to woo your Beloved, circa
1170. Move over, Emily Post. This is the original.
and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Why, oh why, does the headstrong and
romantic Marianne rush impulsively into relationships that may not be the
best thing for her? It's because she doesn't have her older sister Elinor's
proper mix of sense and sensibility. This, according to Austen, a keen observer
of romantic relationships, is what it takes to find a mate. (If you're a Kate
Winslet fan, check out the movie version, but only after you've done it
first the old-fashioned way: by reading.)
de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand. Need a little insight into writing
love poetry? The classic love story of Cyrano's wooing of Roxanne is filled
with comedy and intellectual swordplay. This book is an excellent tale for
anyone who thinks they have a mortal flaw or a big nose.
[While the BTD prefers to be a doer, not a donter, here are just few books
NOT recommended for romance seekers: Sophocles' Oedipus Rex, Dante's
Inferno, or anything by Sylvia Plath.]
Judging Books by Their Covers
The choice of a book is never neutral. It reveals something intimate and essential
about you. In fact, books provide a step toward developing particular qualities
that you would like to have, even if you don't have them right now. So, stock
your bookshelves (and inspect others' shelves) accordingly. A few guidelines:
If you're a lawyer... Read Jon Krakauer's Into
Thin Air to develop your adventurous side
and develop the willingness to take risks on the magnitude of scaling Mt.
Everest (regardless of the potential for lawsuits).
If you're a mechanic... Read Dave
Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius to incubate your irony and
develop your intellectual postmodern tendencies.
If you're an intellectual... Read any of the Harry
Potter books by J.K. Rowling to develop your inner child.
If you're a science type... Read Julia Cameron's The
Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity to learn how you
can bring out the artist within.
If you're a political junkie... Read Victor
Miserables to assure him or her that you'll choose love over politics.
If you're a bookworm... Take up skiing or pottery.