Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Every Month a Valentine

Just before Valentine’s Day this year I read a review by Michael Dirda in the Washington Post of My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead edited by Jeffrey Eugenides (you may know him from Middlesex). Those Classics scholars among us may recognize the title as from a love poem by Catullus. That is your clue that this is a collection of love stories. In the review Dirda refers to Chekhov’s “The Lady with the Little Dog” which is included in this collection as “what I and many others feel to be the greatest of all modern love stories…” With a teaser like that how could I not immediately order the book from my local library? My local library is my new best friend: log on to their website, request the book and receive an email when the book is ready for pick-up. Well worth the 50 cents!

I have to confess that the superlatives for this story surprise me. Perhaps it is the attention and sensitivity to nuance required by the brevity of the short story form that make it difficult for me and why I have never developed an appreciation for the form. Subsequent re-readings may help. The list of other authors in the collection includes names familiar (Faulkner, Joyce, Kundera, Nabokov, Malamud, Munro) and others less so.

I was inspired to dust off Nothing But You - Love Stories from The New Yorker edited by Roger Angell which has been sitting unread on my own bookshelf. Reading either of these books straight through seems to me like eating a meal only of desserts: the enjoyment of each is diluted by its proximity to the others. So I have resolved to take them one story at a time – each month on the 14th - a little Valentine to myself. It’s almost that time.

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