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Check It Out

Courier Article by DeeDee Shoemaker
Sunday, September 28, 2008

Love in Unlovely Times

Word has it that there's a baby boomlet in the making here in the United States. We shouldn't be surprised; love has always been the great antidote to unlovely times such as these. For those who prefer their passion with perhaps more poetry and less consequence, the library shelves are spilling over with romance: music, movies, and books filled with every imaginable kind of love story.

In the intriguing preface to My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead: Great Love Stories from Chekhov to Munro, Pulitzer Prize winning editor Jeffrey Eugenides lays out his strategy for assembling this critically acclaimed anthology of twenty-seven love stories written over the past 120 years. He explores the history of the written love story, tracing the art back to the Latin poet Catullus, whose work lends the title to this enthralling collection. Some of the authors and a few of the selections will be recognizable to you, while some will be delicious discoveries. All have been chosen for their literary craft and their collective portrayal of the many facets of love.

In these stories, just as with the real thing, love is not always requited, is often disappointing, and is almost always messy. Laurie Graham's fourth novel, Gone with the Windsors, takes full advantage of one of the messiest and most public love affairs of the last century to showcase her wit and talent for gentle satire and pitch perfect characterization. Graham creates the diary entries of Maybell Brumby, a fictional friend and confidante of American divorcee Wallis Simpson and His Royal Highness Edward III, to document the love affair that led to Edward's abdication of the British Royal Throne. The Windsors and their frivolous aristocratic entourage are portrayed as maddeningly clueless and ultimately chastened as World War II looms over Europe in this well researched, historical farce.

The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved was written in response to novelist Judith Freeman's preoccupation with the life and work of the famed mystery writer and originator of the noir crime fiction genre. In 1924 Chandler married twice divorced, eighteen year older Cissy Pascal, and, over the course of their ensuing thirty years of marriage, she served as a model for his female characters and the anchor for his drifting, troubled life. In the absence of a written record of the relationship between Chandler and Cissy - he burned their letters just prior to his death - Freeman conducted a detective investigation of her own, visiting the many places that the couple lived and piecing together clues from Chandler's novels and interviews. This book is also a love letter to Los Angeles, Freeman's long time home and the city described so colorfully in Chandler's novels.

Great Kisses…and Famous Lines Right Out of the Movies is film historian and Reel.com critic Timothy Knight's stab at identifying the 50 most memorable on-screen romantic moments of all time. This coffee table worthy little book devotes a full page to each kiss, enhanced by a brief scene-setting paragraph and the accompanying movie dialog. Avid film goers may have some quarrel with these particular picks, but the lush photographs will bring out the romantic in us all.

DeeDee Shoemaker is a readers' adviser at Central Library. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of the library.