Falling out of love with love?

Filed under: The Writing Process — marcia at 7:06 pm on Sunday, March 2, 2008

“Mail & Guardian” has a commentary by Tim Lott called “Whatever happened to literary love?” In it he says that stories about love are becoming rare, though they were once the standard of great literature.
Richard Curtis, screenwriter of “Four Weddings and Funeral,” “Notting Hill” and “Love Actually,” brings the point home:

“If you write a story about a soldier going AWOL and kidnapping a pregnant woman and finally shooting her in the head, it’s called searingly realistic, even though it’s never happened in the history of mankind. If you write about people falling in love, which happens a million times a day … you’re accused of writing something unrealistic and sentimental.”

I am assuming Lott means love as the sole plot for a story, because tons and tons of books have a love relationship as a part of it. (Heck, you could easily argue “Fight Club” is a love story, but I’m sure that’s not the kind of book he means.)
A good love story is hard to write. You are writing about a universal experience, so it has to resonate as true. But you also don’t want to bore people with cliches. You want to say something new. You want to be original.

The New York Times best seller list is topped by mystery and suspense books. Was there a time when it was topped by romances?


1 Comment »

Comment by Joy

March 2, 2008 @ 8:33 pm

I think it was back in the 1920s when all the literary elite declared there is nothing new to be said about love. But still, there is. Because it is something that happens to everyone (I hope!) and it is a major emotional upheaval in one’s life. Likewise, death. Birth. Car accidents. Break-ups. A writer is made to feel that all these things, unless handled in some startling original way, are off limits because “they have been written about.” Well fine. Except very very few writers have actually gotten down on paper what it *feels* to be in love/grief/produce life from your pee hole. So I still think we have a ways to go with this. Too bad the literary establishment has some prejudice against it. But I agree with random commentary guy, love is surprising, passionate, fascinating stuff to write about.

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