Tuesday, February 06, 2007

What to read for Valentine's Day

A couple of years ago the Christian Science Monitor asked a number of writers about the book they consider most romantic. Anita Shreve, Wally Lamb, Kevin Boyle, Dan Chaon, Arthur Phillips, Masha Hamilton, Kate Grenville, and others responded.

Three authors recommended titles that are among my favorite, brilliant and beautiful, novels:
Rachel Basch, author of The Passion of Reverend Nash

Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett, is an evocative illustration not only of romantic love, but of the passion for art, in this case music. The form and tone of the novel conspire to offer readers the experience of falling in love. Patchett's sensory descriptions reshape our own imaginations. To read this book is to come under a spell, to continually deny the reality of the tragic ending foretold right at the start. Well into the novel, Patchett writes of one of her many heroes that his "understanding that he would eventually lose every sweetness that had come to him only made him hold those very things closer to his chest."

H.W. Brands, author of, most recently, The Money Men: Capitalism, Democracy, and the Hundred Years' War Over the American Dollar

My favorite is Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera. Love is a state of altered consciousness, and no one writes better about altered states. The dreamy, the pedestrian, the bizarre mingle here in intimate confusion. And those almonds....

Marc Estrin, author of Golem Song and other works

Surely, the most charming scene of romance is Levin and Kitty's spelling courtship in Anna Karenina, Book IV, Chapter 13. But don't try this at home: You won't be understood, and you'd probably be nailed for robbing, or being robbed from, the cradle. The book as a whole is the richest study of male-female love I know - love as longing, love cursed, love misprized, and of course, the love of Kitty and Levin.
Read all the responses from "What authors read on Valentine's Day."

--Marshal Zeringue