Are all good books about love?
September 15, 2012
Last night, my wife and I attended a one man show performed by the brilliant songwriter, Jimmy Webb. For those of you who don’t recognize the name, I would tell you that he wrote, among others, ” By the Time I get To Phoenix,” “Galveston,” “MacArthur Park,” “If These Old Walls Could Speak,” “Didn’t We?,” “The Worst That Could Happen” and “Wichita Lineman.” He is also a pianist extraordinaire and a vocalist with a unique style.
I have known his songs since the beginning.
As I thought about the common thread that runs through his creations, I found myself coming back to one theme.
They are all about love. Love gone wrong, love gone right, love that might have been but never was, love that was but is no more, love that abides forever, even if tested.
And this made me think about the best novels I have ever read.
Take To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus is a man who has lost his wife too young and now is doubly devoted to his daughter Scout. He loves the law because in it he sees a path to justice. He loves his fellow man regardless of the color of his skin.
Or take Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. It is a tragic story, one in which we know things cannot turn out well for the two star-crossed lovers. But we still yearn to see them defy the odds, to swim against the current of the world’s cruel stream.
Or take William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice. In the horrible aftermath of the Holocaust, we find a woman haunted by the loss of her children who takes refuge in the arms of delusion as she attempts to hold her demons at bay.
Take Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, a book about the paralyzing power of censorship told as a love story between the fireman and a young innocent.
Or take any of Nicholas Sparks’s books that go at the subject of love more directly and mine romance for all its worth.
If you prefer a more spiritual vibe, then consider faith based books where the underpinning of the story is a person’s love of God or God’s love of him. The Shack by William P. Young, a phenomenally popular book, combined a father’s loss of his beloved child to an unspeakable horror with these spiritual elements.
So maybe the truth is that the story is less important than the theme, if the theme is love.
A once heard a man ask the question: Do we ever tire of hearing someone tell us they love us?
I can’t imagine anyone who would answer in the affirmative.
So why should books be any different?
What do you think? Do you prefer to read books about love? Is it important that love enter the story somewhere?