Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Valentine's Day reading

Singleton Jonathan Morrison writes at the Guardian's books blog: "this Valentine's Day, unless something dramatic happens, I'll be curling up with a good book. The question is, which book?"

Topping his list is one of my favorite novels:
On the romantic side, I've always been partial to The Unbearable Lightness of Being, although people sometimes look at me funny when I describe it as a love story. It's sexy, it's brilliant, and I once bought a copy for a girl I knew shortly before we started going out. I'm still not sure what message this conveyed. That's the problem, you see - if you give books as Valentine's Day presents, the receiver starts seeing all sorts of hidden messages about your relationship. Especially if it involves a failure to commit and/or a love triangle.
From there Morrison is on to another wonderful book:
For pure seam-up-the-stocking sexiness, you could do a lot worse than Nicholson Baker's Vox. At just 169 pages - a deliberate tally? - it pulls off the rare trick of appealing equally to both sexes. It's a modern take on the epistolary novel. It's also a literary take on porn, but it does manage to be contemporary and funny at the same time. My copy has been round the block more times than the central characters.
No, it's not in the same league as the Kundera, but it's a fine piece of writing.

He mentions a few more candidates, then writes that he's also
thinking up a selection of books to be miserable with.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's Cancer Ward is certainly not a bundle of laughs. I'm not even sure if it's cathartic. In fact, most of Russian literature seems like a good bet. Anna Karenin is pretty unrelentingly miserable - if only because of those endless speeches by Levin.

While Morrison has lots of company with this view of Anna Karenina, it is at least half wrong: the story of Levin and Kitty is one of the great love stories in literature and is a sublime counter to the bleak course of Anna's romantic ruination.

More recommendations for reading may be found in last week's post, "What to read for Valentine's Day."

Tomorrow on the blog: how to cover your tracks if you forgot to send a token of your affection to your sweetheart on Valentine's Day.

--Marshal Zeringue