Referencing ‘Love Stories’

There is a great divide between books and magazines. Novels, poems, plays all create these worlds that are based off reality, but lavishly designed to move, frighten, generate laughs, and make us swoon. Magazines, well, they do the same thing. The affection is a tad bit different, however, and we are often times swooning and laughing and feeling frightened for different reasons. Taylor Swift and the Kardashians are not supposed to tell us how and what we feel, but they do.

I’d like to shake the hand of the guy who picked up his gal by commenting on the magazine that she is reading while en route to the grocery store cashier. Sure, it’d probably be a great pick up line, commenting on who is wearing what or asking what the best way is to “shake something off.” However, the catch is that the guy has to be serious about it.

Books, however, have a different appeal. One minute, a person is thumbing through the pages of a book in the library or upon a bench or in a subway, and conversation ignites with the introduction of a second person’s inquiry or statement regarding the said text. The interjection can go a in different directions:

  • Agreement:  The person stepping in says they enjoy the author of the book, the writing style, or references a character. The reader agrees, introductions are made, and a coffee date is set up for later in the week.
  • Argument:  The person entering the scene asks if the reader makes the conscious decision to choose that piece of literature. The reader gets offended a little, because who knows if the snark is this person’s humor or seriousness. This then forks off into two options: (1) a debate that ignites bitter feelings, allowing them to to part ways with a bad taste in their mouths (but as Fate should have it — Fate is funny and spiteful like that — the two by happenstance continually run into each other on a regular basis from that day out); and (2) tension rises to a hot and heavy make-out session behind the Non-fiction section (and then some — wink-wink, nudge-nudge).
  • Avoidance:  The two don’t talk to each other due to shyness. The person stepping into the scene then kicks themselves afterwords.
  • Accompaniment: Fate, looking on, knows these two shy people are supposed to meet, so She forces them together. They walk at almost-the-same or drastically different paces, but they keep ending up in the same locations. Conversation happens out of curiosity surrounding coincidence.

In 2012’s Ruby Sparks, Paul Dano’s nerdy, helpless character resurrects Zoe Kazan from his current novel. He dreams of her, he writes her in, she reveals herself to be alive. And she’s the perfect catch: she’s intelligent and makes decisions, she cooks, speaks French, is musically talented, and …


Love isn’t supposed to come that easily. Of course, he learns of the ability to manipulate her via typewriter, and that doesn’t end well (the climax of the movie). Your partner should want to crawl around and bark like a dog, and you shouldn’t make them. Well, they might force you to make them, but that’s a whole different can of worms; what you do behind closed doors is your own business. But then there are the folk, those who don’t care if they’re seen …

OK. Got it. Moving on.

When love should hit, it will hit. Even active participation with online dating schemes does not ensure you’ll meet “The One.” I’m banking less and less on that aspect of my life.

We will still hold literature and movies high. They exhibit the relationships we want to be a part of. The opposite end of the spectrum will convince you differently. Where life in magazines will convince you to think “conscious uncoupling” is OK, divorce is still divorce no matter how media sugarcoats it. A lot of us, millions, thrive off of celebrity gossip and the deterioration of relationships due to lack of communication and limelight and money.

It’s our duty to consider these realms together. It’s possible to have that love and go through the trauma, how little or how large, reality presents us with. We don’t want our relationships to get put through the ringer or showcased to the world as an example of shit hitting the fan.

Writing is difficult. Creating characters and effectively maintaining and mapping out their relationships are difficult tasks. Real life, maintaining our own relationships and being unable to map out the entirety, takes even more work. A small part of it is about entertaining, and most of it is about working at what we have to keep it.

[This post is inspired by “Love Stories” by Joost Swarte, the cover of the June 9 & 16, 2014, edition of The New Yorker.]

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