Thursday, February 14, 2013

Love Stories

I like Valentine's Day.  I know it can veer towards cheesy and Hallmark-y, but the thing is, I kind of like cheesy.  Plus I'll take any excuse to bake something.  And buy a goofy card.  And tell people I lurve them.

That said, I'm not a huge hearts and flowers romance person.  Maybe it's because of that that I don't really get into the romance genre.  Nothing knocking it--I just don't enjoy reading romance.  But I do love reading love stories.  I tend to find that just about every book I read is a love story.  In fact, I'm hard pressed to find a book that isn't a love story in one way or another.

And I think I know the reason why. This is where I know I go a bit off the grid, but here it is: Every life is a love story. I decided this, strangely enough, at my grandfather's funeral. Before the mass, there was a family-only visitation, to give us a reprieve from the hundreds of people at the open visitation the night before. And there had been hundreds. My grandfather was a professor and author, very active in his political and religious communities, and I suppose I had always defined his life that way. He wrote thirteen books, hundreds of articles, founded a university newspaper. There are Wikipedia entries that mention his work. He was successful.

But during that family-only visitation, I watched while my grandmother knelt by his casket in well-rehearsed Catholic posture, as she had in church every week beside him, and said her farewells. It struck me--my grandparents' life was a love story. People who I never would have thought of as the hero and heroine of their own love story were, in fact, the central characters in a romance. 


And so it is for everyone. Some peoples' love stories might veer toward the parental or to friendships or even to a life's work focused on helping others or academic progress.  One of my favorite works by C.S. Lewis is The Four Loves, which of course, being by C.S. Lewis, explores the concept of love from a Christian perspective. But it also makes the point that love is not an emotion defined by romance--love can also be familial, camaraderie, and the elusive God-like charity of giving without bounds. And of course, our own lives inform us of this, too--we know by experience that love is not merely romance and lust. Our first loves, after all, were our parents, our siblings, even our pets.

I've tried to think of a book that didn't have love in them, love driving the characters to act and pursuing their thoughts. All Quiet on the Western Front, one of my favorite books, has no male/female interaction, but though there really isn't any romance in it, it's a story of brotherly love and camaraderie. The Picture of Dorian Gray--narcisistic self-love gone horribly awry. And others--The Life of Pi--that beautiful illusion is created out of love, isn't it? The Little House books--even before Almanzo, Laura's life is driven by the love she has for her family. And so it could go on and on.

(Though I do maintain that wedged in everyone's life is a seed of romance that sprouted at some point. It may have grown slowly and beautifully over time as my grandparents' did, it may have bloomed brilliantly and flourished briefly, it may have been only a tiny seedling that never grew beyond a few leaves and that no one ever saw, but it was there.)

So, believable fiction must imitate life and be motivated by the same things. So, if every life is a love story--not necessarily a romance, but a love story--so then, fiction follows.

What do you think--is every life a love story, or am I off my nut? Can you think of works of fiction that aren't threaded through with love of one kind or another?

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