Saturday, September 14, 2013

Twelve of the best dates in fiction

Amanda Bullock is Director of Public Programming at the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in New York City and Co-founder and -organizer of Moby-Dick Marathon NYC.

She came up with a list of the 12 best dates in fiction for HowAboutWe, including:
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert trans. Lydia Davis
Emma Bovary and Léon
Carriage ride in Paris.
“‘Keep going!’ said a voice issuing from the interior.

The carriage set off again and, gathering speed on the downward slope from the carrefour La Fayette, came up to the railway station at a fast gallop.

‘No! Straight on!’ cried the same voice.”
It’s actually really hard to list literary dates that don’t involve an affair. Particularly in the classics, characters meet at large social gatherings (Darcy and Lizzy at a ball; Romeo and Juliet a house party; etc.), there aren’t many scenes of dates as we know them today. Except with affairs: Anna and Karenin, Lady Chatterley and Mellors, Humbert Humbert and Lolita (I couldn’t quite bring myself to include The Enchanted Hunters as a date spot on this list). This scene is wonderful because Emma and Léon have nowhere to go, given the illicitness of their encounter, so they get in a carriage and keep paying the driver to drive aimlessly around Paris while they “rendezvous” in the back. Your rendezvous need not be illicit for this example, and if you can acquire a horse-drawn carriage, go for it; if not, a yellow cab is a perhaps less romantic but equally suitable chariot. Get in, say “just drive,” and see where you end up.
Read about another entry on the list.

Madame Bovary is on Alison MacLeod's top ten list of stories about infidelity, Álvaro Enrigue's list of ten notable books based on other books, Jennifer Gilmore's list of the ten worst mothers in books, Amy Sohn's list of six favorite books, Sue Townsend's 6 best books list, Helena Frith Powell's list of ten of the best sexy French books, the Christian Science Monitor's list of six novels about grand passions, John Mullan's lists of ten landmark coach rides in literature, ten of the best cathedrals in literature, ten of the best balls in literature, ten of the best bad lawyers in literature, ten of the best lotharios in literature, and ten of the best bad doctors in fiction, Valerie Martin's list of six novels about doomed marriages, and Louis Begley's list of favorite novels about cheating lovers. It tops Peter Carey's list of the top ten works of literature and was second on a top ten works of literature list selected by leading writers from Britain, America and Australia in 2007. It is one of John Bowe's six favorite books on love.

--Marshal Zeringue