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Book Meme Day 22

September 3, 2010

On Wednesday, the 30 Day book meme asked:

Favorite non-sexual relationship (including asexual romantic relationships)

I’m a little late to this particular party, because I’ve been thinking it over. As I mentioned, my favorite romantic relationships in books are the bantering, screwball comedy ones, where the couple keeps a sparring friendship at the center of their romance. That is to say, everything from Beatrice and Benedick to Elizabeth and Darcy to Henrietta and Miles. This is, by the way, distinct from the taboo-fraught doomed romance across cultures or alien species. (As in, the plot of every Liaden book by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. Or, In Conquest Born, by C.S. Friedman. Or tons of other scifi.) Both are kind of cliches, one is more fun to read.
So- my favorite romantic relationships in books start without romantic overtones. And usually, at the start of the book, one, or both characters, can’t possibly imagine being romantic with the other. I eat it like candy.

As far as relationships that stay in the not-romantic realm… I’ve been trying to think of a particular set, a particular pair of chummy friends. As has become a theme for this meme, I can’t pick just one.

I started thinking about families, actually. I like reading about families, where most everyone basically likes and respects each other, and enjoys extended family gatherings. Married couples still in love after decades. Siblings who tease each other benignly. Dinners around big tables. It’s what I grew up with. Tolstoy sounds dismissive, saying “happy families are all alike” but I’m not sure I agree. Madeline L’Engle’s Murray/O’Keefe family. Lois Lowry’s Krupnik family. The Leland family in Bewitching Season. Kind of telling that the first several I’m conjuring are from YA books. Barbara Kingsolver’s mother and child, Taylor Greer and Turtle. And extended families-of-friends, like the regulars at Callahan’s. Hallie’s family, extended and eccentric, in Laura Pedersen’s novels.

This isn’t to say everything I would like to read is fuzzy bunnies every which way or that nobody fights. But I do need a few characters who like each other, or are basically respectful and loving, no matter what. I get that, in a lot of well regarded, prize-winning novels, the family dynamics are awkward and hateful and tragically flawed. If the majority of characters are tragically mean, miserable, spiteful, or adulterous, I would probably put the book down. Oddly enough, I remember that I enjoyed Anna Karenina.

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