don’t be fooled by this book. yes, it is a collection of love stories but not in the sense you might immediately imagine. absent are the happy ever afters, the swooning princesses, and the gallant knights: this is a collection of stories that show love as it is. together they remind us that there is no one kind of love and it is not confined to one kind of relationship. individually, they show us how love is not always tender, is hardly ever perfect, and how, sometimes, you even find yourself pretending to be someone you’re not because of it.
i could go into detail about why i appreciated every single one of the stories in this collection, but i’ll be considerate of your time (and your capacity to listen. i could go on for hours) and only deal with my favourites.
the first, “something that needs nothing” by miranda july, needs no explanation because i’ve already talked about it on this blog and i loved it this time for the same reasons i loved it the last time i read it. it’s the story of one person desperately in love with someone that will never love her back unless she pretends to be someone she’s not. it’s a story that sensitively captures the hopeless devotion love can entail. visit the post on miranda july’s short story collection nobody belongs here more than you to read more.
moving on. the thing i appreciated the most about the next, “jon” by george saunders, was actually the writing style. this is a story of young love and first compromises between a boy and a girl who have grown up in an environment, saturated with labels and logos and advertising, that is isolated from the “real” world. when the girl falls pregnant, she decides to return to the real world for the sake of her baby, and the boy (who narrates the story) is faced with the decision of whether or not to follow her. his is a voice imbued with the products and advertisements he has been absorbing all his life – he describes everything that happens to or around him with reference to a product he has tested or an ad he has seen. there’s a certain roundaboutness to his way of describing things that is both endearing and also feels familiar in a world where we often relate our own experiences, including that of love, to the media imposed upon us. take the following passage, for example:
and though i had many times seen LI 34321 for honey grahams, where the stream of milk and the stream of honey enjoin to make that river of sweet-tasting goodness, i did not know that, upon making love, one person may become like the milk and the other like the honey, and soon they cannot even remember who started out the milk and who the honey, they just become one fluid, this like milk/honey combo. (298)
while there were a number of other stories in this collection that i would really like to talk about here, i won’t. i’d like to leave them for you to discover for yourself. for there’s one thing that this collection of stories emphasised for me and that was that what we think of as the universal experience love is incredibly diverse, not just in terms of who it impacts and how but how each person experiences it differently from anyone else. which is why it’s only natural that every reader’s experience of each of these stories will be as diverse as their individual experiences of love.