My novel WHAT IT WAS LIKE is a love story ... among other things. And my new book is a love story, too, but different. Rendering what real human love is like is a tremendous challenge for a writer, maybe the ultimate challenge.
As Tolstoy said, "The aim of an artist is not to solve a problem irrefutably, but to make people love life in all its countless, inexhaustible manifestations." Exactly!!
With Valentine's Day upon us, I've been thinking about love stories and not just the one I'm writing now. I've been casting about for "Greatest Love Stories" and what I find – Romeo and Juliet ... Cleopatra and Marc Antony ... Lancelot and Guinevere ... Heathcliff and Cathy ... Scarlett and Rhett ... Tristan and Isolde ... Rick and Ilsa from CASABLANCA ... Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky ... Pyramus and Thysbe ... even Adam and Eve – is that they all end badly.
Why do people want to read and watch unhappy love stories?
Is Unhappiness stronger than Happiness dramatically? Perhaps.
Aren't the most valued narratives those of tragedy while "comedy sits at the kiddie's' table" (Woody Allen)?
Readers and viewers want to experience stories and feel emotions that are bigger and more intense than their own lives. "Escapism" can work on many planes – escape outward into genres beyond the bounds of everyday life (science fiction, fantasy, Westerns, manga, etc.) or escape inward into the actual workings of everyday life but rendered with detail, intelligence, and insight that only a great writer can supply. The second is what I'm going for. You come out of great works like these thinking, "Thank goodness, that's not me!" or "Maybe that's a little bit of me." Or both.
I know that WHAT IT WAS LIKE ended unhappily, but I'm trying to rectify it in the
new one. I believe that happiness can be dramatically satisfying, if it's earned.
Meanwhile, here is a selection of famous lovers, some happy, some not so:
Six different versions of Anna Karenina's Suicide by Train (Greta Garbo, Vivien Leigh, Tatyana Samojlova, Nicola Padgett, Sophie Marceau, and Keira Knightly)
CASABLANCA – the end – "Here's looking at you, kid."
CASABLANCA – "Play it, Sam. For old time's sake."
CASABLANCA -- "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world ... she walks into mine..."
ROMEO AND JULIET – "Love's faithful vow" – from the Franco Zefirelli movie
ROMEO AND JULIET – "Thus with this kiss, I die" – from the Franco Zefirelli movie
Gounod's ROMEO ET JULIETTE – Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon (+ some of their MANON) – The TG and I saw them in R&J in LA: more than OK.
WUTHERING HEIGHTS – Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon – the famous kiss in bed
WUTHERING HEIGHTS – "I am Heathcliff!!" – wow – I reached for this. I still am.
GONE WITH THE WIND – "I could tear you to pieces." Up the staircase.
GONE WITH THE WIND – "Frankly I don't give a damn!" until "Tomorrow is another day."
LOVE DUET from Wagner's TRISTAN UND ISOLDE – all forty minutes of it – with Waltraud Meier and Sigried Jerusalem -- On the short list for the most glorious, passionate duet of all time.