Posted by: Corri van de Stege | February 9, 2008

Love stories and real life

In the Guardian today Jeffrey Eugenides, in What we talk about when we talk about…. provides an insight into his reading of love poems/love stories and concludes that the greatest works depend on disappointment, boredom and broken hearts.  And he is so right, when you think about it: love stories would not be so poignant and so utterly fascinating if there was not a degree of disappointment, love unrequited, or unhappiness.  Eternal love is boring to read about, not boring if you can get hold of it in real life of course!  But such stories don’t make good ones, that grip our attention and absorb us.

 It is a fascinating article, ranging from the Latin poet Catallus and his poetry about a personal love afair to Nabokov, Alice Munro and Checkhov’s Lady with Lapdog, which by the way is on my list of short stories to read.  I want to read it even more now that I have read Eugenides’ take on it.  He notes that he has read it countless times and his interpretation changed continually.  in particular, he started off thinking the ending was ironic, but now that he is getting older he reads a promise into it, a kind of optimism, which he did not see when he was young and more sophisticated.  My Mistressess’ Sparrow is Dead: from Chekhov to Munro, edited by Jeffrey Eugenides, is now definitely on my to read list.

Meanwhile, in real life, I still am not anywhere near finalising my poetry submissions and my day work is taking off at astronomical pace.  So, this weekend I MUST DO the final DRAFTING (yes, THREE poems, total 40 LINES) AND write a SHORT COMMENTARY ABOUT MY APPROACH.   Help….  the weather is glorious…   full of promises unfulfilled.  Where is that story?


  1. History has a long list of painters, writers, poets, artists in general, who have lived in dictatorships and under the cruellest of the regimes and circumstances.

    It seems dire situations hone a person originality and their sense of taste.

  2. I have to agree, based on readings and personal experiences, that love stories with sad ending are the most unforgettable ones. Those of unrequited love, of disappointment, and sometimes betrayal are the ones that ingrain in our mind. Take, for example, E.M. Forster’s Maurice, James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, and the most recent completion Contempt, they all reign over my heart with such staying power.

  3. […] The Guardian’s Review had an article by Jeffrey Eugenides about Love Stories (see my reference here) while today Tim Lott urges writers ‘to put the romance back into novels’ (the Guardian Review […]

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