I am coming back from where we left off: a quick review of the books I have read in February. I pored over four books about love—one fiction and three nonfiction. The following were Enigma variations by André Aciman, Unrequited by Lisa Phillips, Modern romance by Aziz Ansari, and Modern love by Daniel Jones (ed.).
The second month of the year was volatile for me with my journals filled with thoughts about solitude and hollow void inside and one talk therapy session with my psychiatrist. I also remember thinking that nothing exciting or new was happening in my life, one shameful confession that I admitted to her. I took a pause doing things to cope with my issues, like cooking and running, but books and few friends kept me company.
One extra day on February 29 in my home town was reserved for our final implementation of the civic engagement I led called AbiliTeens. We awarded the young leaders we trained for almost two years and donated educational materials. Which makes me think that one meaningful day follows 20 days of downhearted disposition. I don’t know; it’s just me.
So much about this loneliness. Here are the books I read and my takes about them:
Enigma variations by André Aciman
Andre Aciman’s novel, or vignettes if you will, follows Paul and his taste of love, longing, and loss. It appealed to me as lyrical living up to its title of an orchestra composition. However, I cannot seem to sympathize with the character which I think was the point of it all. Despite that, I would say that the depiction of Paul is the book’s strength. For one, the book does not pose as a queer book as its lack of emphasis on label implies to me that sometimes, there is no one way to put into words a person’s identity. Paul lives his life liking men and women.
Paul’s desire is insatiable, and his understanding of love and relationships are arbitrary that Paul hopscotches from tender compassion to obsession and egomania. Paul seems to be a different person as each experience unfolds, but what remains in him is his yearning to belong and be loved back.
In other words, love knows no boundaries and it changes you for better or for worse, as what circumstances have enabled Paul.
Rating: 🐈 🐈 🐈 (3/5 cats)
Unrequited: Women and romantic obsession by Lisa Phillips
Your love for a person makes you disrespect yourself. You are yearning for a reply that will not happen. No matter how you strive to improve yourself, all you ever are is a friend, or worse, invisible. This book will console you and will remind you that there is no greater love than self-love. I was relieved reading this during the Valentine’s season.
What struck me the most in this book is the notion that one-sided love brings the best of us. Creation is fertile in the place of being unwanted, and after coping with it, we become comfortable with the fact that it’s not about us all the time. The process is difficult though; as the author recounted her life, she admitted being obsessive, stuck, and fixated on unhealthy practices while nursing her own broken heart.
Unrequited is about, and probably made for women, but the experience of being unwanted is a shared narrative. More than its universal appeal, it comprehensively borrowed historical and literary accounts, case studies, shocking affairs, anecdotes from women, the author’s own experience as a narrative frame, and most of all, Taylor Swift references.
To you who feel terrible and ugly because you loved and it felt good and right, I am dreaming about the day when you wake up and find that what you’re looking for has been here the whole time. See what I did here? Lisa Phillips did it there first.
Rating: 🐈 🐈 🐈 🐈 (4/5 cats)
Modern romance: An investigation by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg
Let’s start with a gif of the radiant Aziz Ansari because I am such a big fan.
I read this because I admire Aziz Ansari’s comedic chops and his body of work in Master of None and other stand up comedy specials in Netflix.
Don’t be fooled into thinking though that this is a humor book. He actually collaborated with the sociologist Eric Klinenberg to explore romantic possibilities in this technological world. With his partnership with Eric, the book presents what they have discovered about love through exhaustive focus group discussions, anecdotes, reddit discussions, personal encounters, and other social research. Academic as it may seem, Aziz never failed to give a layer of his irresistible wit and sense of humor, making this reading experience both enlightening and entertaining.
Living in a small city here in the Philippines, I remain traditional in my quest (or lack thereof) for true love. But I do not deny that the modern days bring about a lot of choices for me. But as the book espouses, the paradox is that in the myriad of options for romantic pursuits, we feel overwhelmed and would end up in difficulty because our demands have solidified as well (e.g., my ideal partner should be politically sound, attractive, should have the same interests as mine, etc etc etc).
It also makes a comparison of cultures when it comes to how they find love. It’s nice getting to know such differences. Then sexting, online dating, divorce and many new trends are worth pondering on.
I would recommend this to any sociologist who is pursuing a related research; it’s interesting to look into their writing style, that scholarly works do not have to be hard to crack.
Rating: 🐈 🐈 🐈 🐈 (4.5/5 cats)
Modern Love: True story of love, loss, and redemption by Daniel Jones (ed.)
As a hopeless romantic, I am a fan of the The New York Times’s Modern Love column. Not only do I read it monthly. I also listen to its podcast. Then the Amazon series adaptation (trivia: on my 26th birthday, my celebration was shutting off all my social media to watch the episode ‘Take me as I am, whoever I am,’ starring Anne Hathaway and bawled my eyes out, but don’t worry as the tears are more cathartic than it’s tragic.).
It was a perfect companion to bring along during the month of February. Not gonna lie that that’s a challenging time for my mental health.
True to its subtitle ‘True Stories of Love, Loss, and Redemption,’ the essays do not leave you brokenhearted. The writers may have led an imperfect, flawed life, but they’re generous enough to make meaning upon the harrowing experiences. I learned a lot through their journeys with their lost loves, impossible loves, filial love, all types of love.
These are the following essays that stood out to me: The five stages of ghosting grief; Misery loved fried chicken, too; Loved and lost? It’s ok, especially if you win; When Eve and Eve bit the apple; You may want to marry my husband; When your doorman is your main man; The third half of the couple.
I am not giving it a perfect five because there are a lot of more essays that should have been in the cut because they made me cry, imagine, and think of someone/something: Nursing a wound in an appropriate setting by Thomas Hooven, Out of the darkness by Mark Lukach, In Manila, two seasons, no regrets by Lauren Fantauzzo, and The 12-hour goodbye that started everything by Miriam Johnson.
(Read these endearing essays too! And if you think there are any essays that should be included in this book, I’d be happy to receive your recommendation)
Rating: 🐈 🐈 🐈 🐈 (4/5 cats)
I would like to know what you have read in February, or which among these books have enticed you. Love, in its many splendored thing, is a subject I love exploring into, so I would also like to know what must be read.
Meanwhile, I read all female authors for the month of March. Because we were kept indoors due to the pandemic, I had an adequate time reading a lot of women’s stories and struggles. How about you?
NOTE: I keep my reviews and reading progress on my Goodreads account. If you are a user of this social media network for the bookworm, I would like to be your friend. 🤓📚