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Orange Juice and Valentine’s Day.

January 25, 2011
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I just finished reading and reviewing the Valentine’s themed books for the Ledger. As usual, I’m a bit ahead of the holiday curve. Or maybe I’m not. I swear I saw big shiny Valentine’s hearts up in the drug store before New Year’s Eve.

Reading so many romance-themed books in succession feels a bit like having eaten too many candy hearts. They weren’t bad, exactly. But I’m the kind of girl whose preferred romantic entertainment skews toward, say, Beatrice and Benedick, of Much Ado About Nothing. My other favorite romantic comedy is Grosse Point Blank.

There was a book I read for this year’s roundup that was all about the first meetings of some of the great, iconic lovers of history, from Heloise and Abelard (spoiler: it didn’t end well) to Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio (spoiler: neither did that). The author kept referring to them as one another’s “destiny.” Which bugged me.

I’m most interested in the love stories that have a good amount of bantering dialogue, even a healthy edge of snark. I’m interested in stories that aren’t about love or knowing at first sight. Love at first sight seems kind of spooky to me, like a big giant neon sign glossing over the details. Maybe love at first sight actually happens to some people at some level. I don’t know. Never been all that interested in reading about it.

I like the details of affection. It’s the small, ordinary things that make me smile. Things that are particular to a person, or to what two people become. I especially like stories where people who might be in love get on with the business of the plot (thwarting spies, running a business, solving a mystery, exploring a new country, foodie things), while being in love, instead of getting obsessively swept away so their romance is the whole story.

I remember in an anthro linguistics class, the prof explained pragmatic meaning, or contextual meaning: “Sometimes orange juice can mean ‘I love you.'” I always liked how specific and commonplace that image was.

I have to dig up a copy of “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” a Raymond Carver short story that I remember as celebrating the mundane and slightly scruffy moments underpinning romance. (I may be confusing it with “Cathedral,” by the same author, read for the same class.)

I know most novels, especially romance-themed novels, are created to cater to fantasy to some extent. And that lends itself more toward grand sweeping gestures, and ultimate sweeping passions.

This may be why my attempts to write a romance novel haven’t gone well so far.

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