In the piece, Guardian writer Damien Walter discusses the different takes on love portrayed in three recent novels--Fated by SG Browne, The Thorn and the Blossom by Theodora Goss, and The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (RBtL's current book club pick, FYI!):
"People would never fall in love if they hadn't heard love talked about." Or read about it in books, we can assume. Which is all very well for Francois de La Rochefoucauld, French nobleman and writer of maxims, to say – but is much harder to live by. Yes, perhaps, in the postmodern sense love is just a construct, cobbled together from bits of old Arthurian romances and BBC Jane Austen adaptations. But try telling that to your New Year's Eve date and see how far it gets you. If love is just a fantasy, what does the fantasy of today say about love?
The thing about SG Browne is, he's a romantic – and his second novel, Fated, is a book for anyone who believes that love is destined. Browne takes up the grand tradition of writers from Ovid to Pratchett by casting personified facets of the human psyche among his central characters. Fate, nickname Fabio, is the kind of handsome 30-something go-getter you might expect to find running a tech company or investment fund. Instead, he's employed to assign fates to the 83% of humanity who will never amount to much, and after an eternity of watching over petty crooks, estate agents and career politicians, Fabio is bored. Worse yet, Destiny, his beautiful blonde co-worker and occasional non-contact sex partner, gets all the really high achievers: the artists and scientists and great intellectuals; all those with a true destiny to fulfil.
Love, Browne's novel tell us, lifts us up to achieve our destiny, and escape our fate. Fabio's own redeeming love arrives in the body of Sara Griffen who, as is so often the case with mortals who play among the gods, is on the path of destiny. Not that she's the first mortal Fabio has had a fling with: in fact, over the course of eternity, his tally has reached the low six figures. But there's something different about Sara. Of course there has to be, or this wouldn't be a romance at all, would it? In Fated, Browne has written the kind of funny, satirical, romantic novel that, were I a Hollywood producer seeking a new vehicle for the talents of Hugh Grant and Jennifer Aniston, would certainly attract my million-dollar pay cheque.
But what if true love is rare – so rare that we might only find it once every ten lifetimes? Would you suffer loneliness for eternity waiting for love, or would you settle for something less? Such is the theme of The Thorn and the Blossom by Theodora Goss, a novel almost as remarkable for its format as its writing (but only almost). Packaged as a slipcased, accordion fold book, read in one direction it tells the story of Evelyn, and in the other of Brendan, two star-crossed lovers whose lives intersect again and again, but never quite find romance.
Goss has written some of the most remarkable short fantasy fiction of recent years, shortlisted for the World Fantasy award for short fiction in 2005 for The Wings of Master Wilhelm, republished in her sole collection to date, 2006's In the Forest of Forgetting. The Thorn and the Blossom is Goss's longest work to date but even with its dual stories combined it numbers less than 100 pages. Nevertheless, it extends her fascination with postmodern revisions of myth and folktale, which has led to her being labelled among the emerging "mythpunk" movement in contemporary fantasy. The Thorn and the Blossom introduces the courtly Arthurian myth of Gawain and Elowen, and recasts it in modern garb, asking the reader to wonder if the values of courtly love could survive in the modern world.
Jeffrey Eugenides' The Marriage Plot, which opens with the words of Francois de la Rochefoucauld, is not itself a work of fantasy, but rather asks if love itself is a fantasy we cling to. The novel follows the coming of age of three Ivy League students in the early 1980s, from Brown University to Cape Cod to Calcutta. By contrasting the intensity of their emotions with the intellectual detachment of the French philosophy they debate, at perhaps a little too much length, The Marriage Plot is unapologetic in its treatment of love as a construct; an idea we build from parts scavenged from thousands of stories. The Marriage Plot is also, as Eugenides discusses in his recent Guardian interview, a novel that tackles big questions of the human spirit, faith, and even God. In the end, all spiritual paths arrive at the same demand: to abandon fantasy in favour of reality. Love may be the most difficult illusion of all to let go.
Love. A truth we are destined to discover. Something rare that only comes to those willing to suffer without it. An illusion spun from works of fantasy and fiction. Whichever of the three you choose to believe, you'll certainly find a book out there to support your theory.
Read the original post HERE
And then love, of course. =)