Since Geoffrey Chaucer first popularized the connection between Valentines Day and romance in the 14th Century, we have been struggling to find just the right token of affection for our beloved. Flowers, jewelry, a fancy dinner, a trip to the spa, a box of chocolates … perhaps we’re in need of some inspiration to break out of our Valentines Day rut. I found some books in our collection that look at love from several different angles.
Like Chaucer or Shakespeare, the love-stricken have been looking to poetry as a vehicle to express our affections for centuries. Contemporary poet and essayist Diane Ackerman has pulled together nearly 800 pages of the stuff for her anthology The Book of Love. From the Bible’s scandalous “Song of Solomon” to Rita Dove, Erica Jong and Edna St. Vincent Millay, there is a love poem for every occasion.
Chilean poet Pablo Neruda wrote 100 of his own love poems, published as 100 Love Sonnets (Cien sonetos de amor, in its bilingual edition).
And speaking of Shakespeare, his Romeo and Juliet has quickened pulses for generations. In Letters To Juliet, authors Lise and Ceil Friedman tell the story of a statue of Juliet is Verona, Italy that actually receives mail from around the world from folks looking for advice and relating their own stories of love lost and found.
Less poetic but still fascinating is Daniel Jones’ Love Illuminated: Exploring Life’s Most Mystifying Subject (with the Help of 50,000 Strangers). As editor for the Sunday Modern Love column in the New York Times, the author is privy to hundreds of weekly letters from readers soliciting his wisdom. Jones breaks down the revelations, “from love’s muck to its majesty”.
We all know that laughter lies close to the heart of any successful relationship. Popular comic Jim Gaffigan asks why our affections should be limited to just people. In his Food: a Love Story, Gaffigan sends a valentine to the hot dogs, breakfast cereal and Hot Pockets that have kept him company throughout his adult life.
Finally, on a much more serious note, I found several excellent memoirs focusing on the real life expressions of love that we encounter as couples cope with loss and separation. Called “a mature love story”, Diane Ackerman’s One Hundred Names For Love tells the story of a stroke’s challenge to the strength of her own marriage. There are few more candid, meaningful and touching accounts of real love. Perhaps Mrs. Ackerman drew from her anthology of love poetry and verse for inspiration?
For more Valentines Day recommendations (from the traditional to the less traditional), stop by and talk to our staff. We’d love to help!