Romance. If you can imagine, and this should not be much of a stretch, I’m not particularly romantic. In the days of yore (also known as high school), I used to gauge how much a guy liked me by whether he would read certain books for me. The usual book of choice: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Yes, I was a fun kid (my personal soundtrack would have led off with this song). The subject of this week’s top ten list: romance (as hosted by The Broke and The Bookish and in honor of Valentine’s Day).
Now, as an adult, I’ve grown up. Sylvia Plath is out. David Foster Wallace is in. Only kidding, I’m not that mean. Alexander Pushkin is the true test. And no, I’m not trying to make a point about men being superfluous. They’re not. If not for men, who would kill spiders? If no one is around, I have to use a book and I feel really guilty about that (I even tape a paper towel around the dust jacket with painter’s tape so as not to mar the cover with spider remnants).
Seriously though, I’m not the Grinch, I do have a heart, and deeply appreciate romantic gestures that do not include flowers, candy, or Hallmark cards. Like reading The Bell Jar, Eugene Onegin, or watching a John Hughes movie. The following ten books made my heart hurt in the best way possible, despite the fact that only one is a “romance”.
In no particular order:
Pride had given way at last, obstinacy was gone: the will was powerless. He was but a man madly, blindly, passionately in love, and as soon as her light footsteps had died away within the house, he knelt down upon the terrace steps, and in the very madness of his love he kissed one by one the places where her small foot had trodden, and the stone balustrade there, where her tiny hand had rested last.
9. Bag of Bones by Stephen King.
Love is a thing formed of equal parts lust and astonishment. The astonishment part women understand. The lust part they only think they understand.
8. A Room With a View by E. M. Forster.
It isn’t possible to love and part. You will wish that it was. You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you. I know by experience that the poets are right: love is eternal.
7. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.
For where all love is, the speaking is unnecessary. It is all. It is undying. And it is enough.
6. The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham.
How can I be reasonable? To me our love was everything and you were my whole life. It is not very pleasant to realize that to you it was only an episode.
5. Brokeback Mountain by E. Annie Proulx.
If you can’t fix it you’ve got to stand it.
4. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier.
I know I don’t need him, but I think I want him.
3. Persuasion by Jane Austen. That letter, everyone needs a letter like that once in their life.
You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope…I have loved none but you.
2. Experiments in Terror Series by Karina Halle.
I love you. So much. Too much. Always…I’m not supposed to be anything other than a man that’s stupidly in love with you.
1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
I have for the first time found what I can truly love–I have found you. You are my sympathy–my better self–my good angel–I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my centre and spring of life, wrap my existence about you–and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one.
If I included poetry, I would most certainly have included something by W. H. Auden (He was my North, my South, my East and West / My working week and my Sunday rest), though generally I agree with Ms. Bennet about the effect of poetry on love – Auden is an exception.
Happy Valentine’s day. I hope you have something fun planned!
Image courtesy of Pink Orchard Press.