Sparked by Words

In the Mood, Eros

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My fingers blister holding a particular photograph. It shows Pearl and Max the first time they met. I don’t know if it was love at first sight but I learned to juggle holding that photo – hot pic – burning fingers – juggle – hot pic – burning fingers – yikes! Chemistry, fate, the lobster effect – it’s so obvious even in 4 X 5 format, you’d have to be stationed on the moon not to see it. They were a couple, but each of them already coupled with someone else. Five years later Pearl and Max wed each other. Five years hence they are still married, a perfect match, though exhausted what with several kids to wear them out. It’s the happily ever after we all yearn to live, though I could do with a bit more guaranteed sleep.

Max and Pearl have entered the blah-blah zone – for story purposes they are as interesting as beans in a can. They are now happily ever blah-blah.

The writable, the readable story exists in the tension between them as they explored their initial ill-timed relationship, got separated from the first claimants on their hearts, worked out all the kinks and obstacles, and finally declared that first attraction was real and long lasting. I only know Pearl and Max from the sizzling photographic evidence but I could make up a story about the first five years. The subsequent lovey dovey decades – who cares? It’s the long term love affair we all want for ourselves, but snuggled up in bed at night, we want to read drama, conflict, unfaithfulness, and secret assignations. Maybe a bit of sex.

February seems a perfect month to talk about love. That is, in between the kisses and chocolate. Not like anyone needs incentive to talk about love – we’re surrounded by the evidence of our obsession with it. You and I would be blips in the nebula nursery without it, not even a star’s glitter to mark our tenuous entry here on earth if our parents hadn’t – you know. So many writers capture the passion and intensity of playing footsie and sharing hearts. Why is that?

We love to read about love, and legions write about it. Love stories sell: scandalous, sexy, unrequited, toxic, lost opportunities. All the juicy passion, poignant missed chances, betrayals, and mixed messages make for exciting reading. Everything in moderation, maybe in real life. In stories, lots of excess, extreme to the nth degree, keeps us reading late into the night.

We could start with Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence. I read it in college. Who didn’t? And then I read everything else Lawrence wrote because he seemed to understand everything about love and I still didn’t understand a thing. I mean, I was in college but first year. Who understood anything back then? I read Vladimir Nabakov’s Lolita, also in college though a bit older, and found myself shocked but intrigued. I couldn’t figure out whom to like, whom to despise. Well, gee whiz, of course. Read all the classic love stories, from Pride and Prejudice, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Wuthering Heights, The Great Gatsby, Dr. Zhivago, The Scarlet Letter, a hundred more, and realized that books about love were also books about life. I learned how to make choices, how to live with integrity, what to grieve, what to celebrate, when to move on, when to look back. In theory I learned. In practice I’d learned nothing but it didn’t stop me from reading.

When I started to write stories, I started to write about love and this is where my writing stopped cold. Not good when you’re trying to write. With no intention of writing gymnastic details, I needed to discover the kind of extraordinary insight that marks great literature. Where did Bronte and Hardy get their ideas? If it came from personal experience, I had little to draw from. Did I want to write about the loves in my life, when I’d lived nothing like the adventures and passions of Heathcliff and Catherine or – or –like anyone I’d read about? My life was more parallel to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with so many lovers and buffoons, players and kings, and one poor soul who falls asleep and wakes to find herself in love with a donkey. Well that would be me, young and in love with donkeys and scoundrels but lacking the poetry. So how to write about love? Maybe I could not.

Then it happened. From a place where my young self yearned and my older self finally learned, I wrote about love. I wrote of people in love, even in lust, people betrayed, confused, longing, unrequited, even satisfied. I thought about how it felt to be in love and realized it corresponded to being alive. No matter one’s age or culture or orientation, what I wrote about is how to get from one day to the next, trying like crazy to keep my characters’ sanity from launching into orbit and their dreams one step closer to achievement. Kinda like me. For me that’s what it means to love, to be in love. It’s to be in life. And that I can write about.

I can’t say it any better than this from the Song of Songs, written by King Solomon: “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” Looking again at the photograph of Pearl and Max, I see what they knew from the very first moment they saw each other: they belonged together.

Enjoy the day, friends and lovers, all.

 

 

 

Cupid image courtesy Google public domain mages

 

 

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Comments on: "In the Mood, Eros" (32)

  1. Thanks Sharon for this interesting insight: basically, to write about love is to write about life. Is that what is at the heart of good writing, do you think? To write about one’s (or one’s characters’) love of life. This could be love of a spouse, partner, parent, child, lover … But equally it could be about one’s love of art, music, hiking, ballet, soccer, bugs, buildings … Maybe the key is to identify passion, for a person or thing or activity, and write in a way that communicates that passion?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Denzil, I think that’s a great way to put it – a writer must be passionate about writing about life. To have the focus necessary to work though an entire manuscript, the writer has to care about his subject and has to create a premise (characters, theme, and plot) whose engagement with the world is all consuming. So yes, it becomes writing about life, and that can happen within any genre.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ve never tried to write romance. Truth is, writing about it scares the crap out of me. I’m not one of those flowery women who cry, or even sigh when watching a movie like Sleepless in Seattle. I’m just too much of a realist, I guess.

    Happy Valentine’s Day!

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is a broad swath of romance relationships and I don’t write the titillating kind, nor the Fifty Shades style. My books can’t be categorized as romance genre. But I do write about love in every book, because we humans are governed as much by romantic urges as anything else. No one would call me flowery, at least not at this age (I’m a bit older than you) but I remember what it was like to be so in love with someone that I didn’t think there was room for anything else to exist. I still love deeply, maybe a bit more responsibly. No place in any of your books for a hint of romance? You sure? (I’m teasing you a bit, Glynis.) Happy Valentine’s Day to you too!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I can’t believe you got this out after our evening critique meeting. You are a worker, girlfriend!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You’re right about the popularity of love as a theme for literature, Sharon. It also seems to be the main subject of about 99.8% of all popular music. Passionate songs about stamp collecting, ballbearing manufacture and chicken farming seem to be vanishingly rare.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Your writing of love creates a smile. The blah blah blah part made me smile.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. One can only hope that love remains a driving force. Not just romantic love–although we all want that–but love for a child, a pet, a neighbor, a friend. And I agree, the great literature can be an excellent guide to many of the nuances of our favorite emotion. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A great post that made me think and also made me admire your writing skills!
    I think when it is all said and done all stories are about love…losing, finding, seeking. All kinds of relationships, parent and child, friends, teacher and student, as well as lovers. Maybe not passionate, mooning over a picture love but love in some form.
    Thank you for sharing your ideas and experiences on your blog…one of my favorites!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Lori, thank you for your kind comments, I am humbled.

      Maybe the problem is the word “love” itself – a very small word for an enormous amount and kind of emotional sensation. I’ve read that Inuit and Yupik have dozens of words for snow, and yet we rely on one word for love. But I really was writing about the kind of partnership relationships that create couples (and though my examples were limited, I include any two who identify as a couple.) Nearly any novel I can think of writes about or alludes to this kind of couple love relationship even if only as a secondary theme.

      And yes, all other kinds of love relationships show up in books – more weight to the need for more words for love. But then it might not be so much fun, right?

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Oh, I loved this so much! Why is love so often painful and fleeting? Just last night someone said first you must learn to love God and by doing that will learn better how to love others… it’s difficult to love the God of the universe and so love on earth remains such a mix of joy, bewilderment and despair.

    Like

    • Thank you for such a sweet compliment, Adrienne. You present an interesting tenet about needing to love God before loving people, but to me the concept of loving God is very different from the way we love people. One of our most important prayers is called V’ahavta – and you shall love (Adonai your God.) I once attended a lecture by a famous rabbinical commentator who explained that the word love in this context was really about remaining loyal to God, no matter the difficulties. That idea kind of echoes what you wrote, except I still find a difference between the two. Maybe remaining loyal despite trial and trauma is the bridge between these kinds of love. Very engaging discussion.

      BTW, Pearl and Max, the young couple in the photo? They’re still together, married about 5 – 6 years, two adorable kids, and absolutely deeply and respectfully in love. Sometimes it is meant to be.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. “Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence. I read it in college. Who didn’t?” I didn’t.

    Great post, wonderful prose. Maybe you should consider a career as a writer . . . ?

    Like

    • Seriously, you didn’t? I was playing catch up to the really advanced kids who’d read it in high school! Honestly, I don’t remember this one all that well as I like other of his books better. Now that I know more about him, I realize he’s a person I would probably despise were I ever to meet him in person.

      A career as a writer? Have you broadcast to the agents yet? You always make me laugh, Judy.

      Like

  10. Apart from the wonderful ideas you pose, Sharon, this is a seriously gorgeous bit of writing! So many clever turns of phrases, too many to list as I haltingly type via phone.

    Like

    • Your kindness humbles me, Daal.
      Yeah, that phone typing is a trick to master – I never text, my flip phone is too cumbersome, but I’m very admiring and forgiving of those who do.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I only joined smart phone land last year as well as occasionally texting. Really I got it because I needed a new camera, then drove friends to distraction when I didn’t use it as a phone for several months. Sooner or later technology and inherent bills catch even the best of us.

        Like

      • If I break down and get a smart phone it will probably be so I can have a camera. Right now, I don’t, and I’m always wanting to grab a photo of the things and people I see throughout the day. So one day I’ll have a smartie but I’m still unlikely to text except perhaps for emergencies.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Funny coincidence- just a moment ago radio featured an interview about how old flip phones are becoming sought after for nostalgia and technology detox.

        Can’t remember- do you use mac or pc? Am loving how super portable my little iPhone is, how I can immediately crop and touch up pix and share them, along with benefits of a pocket computer.

        Like

      • I think I just dislike phones in general, though for me it’s the only way to stay in touch with people who live long distance from me. I do write letters via email to friends but I’m disgusted by the amount of annoying solicitation on phones. My computer is a very old and very big pc with an ergonomically correct keyboard that I love.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I know what you mean, especially when I used to do selling via phone. At times though it takes me longer to email than to call.

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      • But we can write when we have time and they can read when they have time, a real advantage for working people or those who live in different time zones. Because otherwise I’d be trying to call my best friend just as she’s trying to get to bed. Which I have done – angry best friend.

        Liked by 1 person

      • ah – well you are a good friend for trying! I have relatives in other countries & we just give up…

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      • That’s unfortunate but it happens with me also.

        Liked by 1 person

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