Monday, May 04, 2009
There are few contemporary novels I've read that have stayed with me. They mostly disappoint with a lack of substance or artistic style or both. But one of my favorite books in the world is On Love by Alain de Botton. Its dissection of modern love is exhaustive, but wryly entertaining and wholly enlightening. While it's basically a love story about a relationship with a woman named Chloe, there are many fascinating tangents the author takes along the way—including diagrams and figures to illustrate his points.
The painful truths it presents rang all too true when I read it for the first time. I recognized a few too many things as echoing my own love life. I've revisited it recently and it delights just as much as before. And remains just as challenging in the things it forces you to consider about yourself and how you look at love.
An excerpt to whet your appetite:
"There is the old joke made by the Marx who laughed about not deigning to belong to a club that would accept someone like him as a member—a truth as appropriate in love as it is in club membership. We laugh at the Marxist position because of its absurd contradiction:
How is it possible that I should both wish to join a club and yet lose that wish as soon as it comes true?
How was it that I might have wished Chloe to love me, but be irritated by her when she did so?
Perhaps the origins of a certain kind of love lie in an impulse to escape ourselves and our weaknesses by an amorous alliance with the beautiful or the powerful—God, the club, Her/Him. But if the beloved loves us back [if God answers our prayer, if membership is extended], we are forced to return to ourselves and are hence reminded of the things that had driven us into love in the first place. Perhaps it was not love we wanted at all; perhaps it was simply someone in whom to believe, but how can we continue to believe in the beloved now that they believe in us?"
READ IT. LIKE NOW. SERIOUSLY.