Sunday, December 20, 2009

The History of Love

Can you imagine, say for instance, if you yourself undertook the writing of a book with such an ambitious title?
The History of Love.
First guy: "So hey..... umm, what are you doing today?"
Second guy: "Not much. Just working on a book called The History of [frigging] LOVE!"

For one thing, there is no such thing as a history of love.
There are only many histories of loves.
And each "history" -- each story -- a unique, and inexplicable, one.
The relevance so internal, is what I mean.
Your love for another, for your loved one, your beloved -- only you yourself can know what it all means, if put into words.
Those words would be inadequate.
If at all meaningful to anyone outside of the relationship, terms would have to be generalized -- you would end up writing a philosophy of love, because anyone reading your work would not have truly experienced the unique thing you are describing. At best, they would know [or imagine] a vague approximation.

Nicole Krauss's [2005] novel, The History of Love is a difficult book.
Read a few reviews. You will see. It is not for the faint-of-heart.
If you need a potboiler, don't go here. You're going to be waiting a long while to see any percolation, much less modest bubbles... never mind the lid rattling.
A few times I wanted to abandon the thing. It's difficult. Almost like a real love-relationship, there is nothing simple about it. But I have discovered tonight [having finished the book mere minutes ago] that, as with a healthy love-relationship, patient tenacity will be worthwhile.
Stay with this book to the end.
The pieces you don't think are fitting, will.

It's stopping in the middle that would be a mistake.
Like a painting that means little in the first ten minutes.
In the eleventh, it all hits you.
As with history, so with love.
To stop partway through is to miss the beginning.

*******

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard / Are sweeter." [Keats]


Thank you, cipriano, for this review.

I think that Krauss (married to Jonathan Safran Foer) is brilliant in this book - which I loved from the beginning.
Like cipriano, I was lost, too, yes. But I trusted Krauss to lead me through the fog because of the quality of her prose and the rich emotional quality of the stories in the book within the book. [The History of Love is the name of a book that this novel is "about."] In one of the stories it is told how there was an Age of Glass...when humans were very fragile, breakable. (I know...when aren't they?) It is a story of vulnerability...which is probably the only genuinely true love story to be told on this planet.

Unforgettable.

Krauss has said in an interview that she wanted the book to be a celebration of the imagination. And that is exactly what it was for me.

I feel like most of us imagine things that we know are not true. Things that are not genuine in a "real" world sense.

But in Krauss's world, I think that she shows us that the inner truth of the imagined - what we "invent in order to survive" - is ample reason that fiction is written. And why it continues to be read.

Structurally - the artifice - holds up all the way through, but as cipriano has already said, no slouching. This is a novel that repays careful reading...and occasionally calls for a measure of patience.

Of the main narrator (there are multiple) Krauss says, "Leo imagines telling his son; 'The truth is the thing I invented so I could live.'"

If you have never felt this way, never held close this need to invent, perhaps the book will not appeal to you.
But if you have, it may be destined to be one of your favorite books.

Ever.
Thanks, cipriano. Always something to think about on this site.

Beth said...

From beginning to end, I loved it.

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

I have heard really good things about this one. Glad that you stuck with it and ended up liking it.

cipriano said...

Anonymous, thank you for these amazing points. Assessment-wise, this that you said is really important:
"Leo imagines telling his son; 'The truth is the thing I invented so I could live.'"
If you have never felt this way, never held close this need to invent, perhaps the book will not appeal to you.
But if you have, it may be destined to be one of your favorite books.


Beth and Nicole -- yeah this is a book worth sticking with, in my opinion. Beth says she latched onto it all the way through. For me, I must say I love the book most in retrospect. It is a deep deep story.