This Valentine’s Day I decided to read some of my favourite love stories. So I took out my favourite love story collections and put them together in a pile and started reading some of the stories. I read some old favourites and also read some new ones which I haven’t read before.
These are the books from which I read the stories
My favourite stories out of the ones I read were these.
In the Gloaming by Alice Elliott Dark – This is story of the mutual love of a mother and her son. The son is grown up, in his early thirties, but he is suffering from a terminal illness. A warm, loving friendship develops between then and they talk about things that they never did before and get to know each other better. One of my alltime favourite stories.
Yours by Mary Robison – It is the story of Allison and Clark. Though they are married, they are from different generations – Allison is thirty-five while Clark is seventy-eight. Clark’s children don’t approve of Allison. But both of them are very much in love with each other. It is Halloween and Allison goes and gets some pumpkins and she and Clark sit together and they start carving them. We are under the impression that Allison is the one taking care of Clark. But at the end of the story the sad, heartbreaking truth is revealed. The story is just two-and-a-half pages long, but under the pen of a master so much beautiful magic is woven into such a short space. It is a triumph of storytelling. Mary Robison is a real genius.
Letter to the Lady of the House by Richard Bausch – Our hero, the narrator, has a fight with his wife on the eve of his seventieth birthday. It is about a mundane thing like putting black pepper on his potatoes. His wife goes to bed alone while our narrator sits in the living room and has a drink. Then he decides to write a letter to his wife about their relationship. What comes after that is a tale of extraordinary beauty. One of the most beautiful love stories I have ever read – this is an ode to married love. If you like you can listen to Richard Bausch reading the story here.
Mister Death and the Redheaded Woman by Helen Eustis – This is the description of the story at the beginning – “In this rip-roaring tall tale, novelist Helen Eustis celebrates the American West. Here, a determined young lady refuses to let her own true love be taken away by the cold hand of Mister Death. She tracks him down on his pale stallion, but is unprepared for her reaction when she pays the forfeit her nemesis demands in return for her lover’s life…Mister Death, it turns out, has some unexpected depths, possibly enough to turn a girl’s red-head.” How can we not like a story like that? I loved, loved, loved it! Maud Applegate, our redheaded heroine, Mister Death and his granny are all adorable characters.
Other stories which I liked were these.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver – In Carver’s legendary story, two couples are sitting at home having a drink and talking about love. One of them says that her earlier husband loved her so much that he wanted to kill her. How is that even possible? She proceeds to tell the story. Carver’s story had one of the great last lines – “I could hear my heart beating. I could hear everyone’s heart. I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark.”
Mouche by Guy de Maupassant – Five friends have a boat and sometimes take it on trips down the river. They sometimes take a girl with them. They like one of the girls very much that she also becomes a part of the group. All five of them love her – one of them is the official lover while the others are clandestine lovers. And then one day the girl becomes pregnant. And all five of them decide to take care of her. After that the story takes some twists and turns and has some sad and happy things.
Dating Your Mom by Ian Frazier – In a short space of three pages Ian Frazier tells us an interesting story. Looking at the title we would expect it to be Oedipal, but it is not – it is nice.
Other stories which I read, but which didn’t move me much were these.
Love by Grace Paley
A Rose For Emily by William Faulkner – I went into this much anthologized classic with a lot of expectation. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as great as expected. I realized that the old maxim is always true – one should never go into a story with expectations.
Dirty Wedding by Denis Johnson – A story about abortion.
First Love by Isaac Babel – A story about a boy’s love for an older woman. I was hoping to see echoes of Turgenev’s story (of the same name) here, but this one was a pale shadow.
One Autumn Night by Maxim Gorky – Another story into which I went with a lot of expectation. I read Dostoevsky’s ‘White Nights’ and loved it and I was hoping that Gorky’s story would be something similar. But there was nothing much in it and in the end there was a twist in the tale which was predictable and disappointing and an insult to the heroine.
Have you read some of the above stories? What do you think about them?