Tag Archives: love quotes

The Only Story

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“Would you rather love the more, and suffer the more; or love the less, and suffer the less? That is, I think, finally, the only real question…Most of us have only one story to tell. I don’t mean that only one thing happens to us in our lives; there are countless events, which we turn into countless stories. But there’s only one that matters, only one finally worth telling. This is mine.”

So the reader begins their journey down the rabbit hole of Paul and Susan’s relationship. However, this is no ordinary love story that focuses on rainbows and “notebooks” and happily-ever-after endings. It’s a searing look at how we love/hate ourselves — and our partners.

Julian Barnes, the Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sense of an Ending, does a masterful job of documenting a fictional story about a nineteen-year-old English student back home for the summer after his first year of university. Paul joins a local tennis club and is soon teamed up with Susan, a mid-forties housewife and mother of two, for a mixed doubles tournament, and a romance quickly blossoms.

Unlike The Graduate (film) or Cougar (TV show), The Only Story is neither an intergenerational story that begs the question: mother or daughter? Nor is it a superficial glimpse into the lives of a young man with an older woman.

Instead, it is a beautiful tale of how disastrous we as individuals can be in the pursuit of love and the deflection of hardship. It also happens to feature some of the most beautiful prose I’ve read since Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto. Case in point:

“An entry from his notebook which had survived several inspections: ‘In love, everything is both true and false; it’s the one subject on which it’s impossible to say anything absurd’. He had liked this remark since first discovering it. Because for him it opened out into a wider thought: that love itself is never absurd, and neither are any of its participants. Despite all of the stern orthodoxies of feeling and behaviour that a society may seek to impose, love slips past them. You sometimes saw, in the farmyard, improbable forms of attachment — the goose in love with the donkey, the kitten playing safely between the paws of the chained-up mastiff. And in the human farmyard, there existed forms of attachment which were just as unlikely; and yet never, to their participants, absurd.”

The book is set in three parts, starting in the 1960s and culminating sometime in the 21st century (dates aren’t used, so the reader needs to be astute to cultural markings and historical events). What’s also interesting is how Barnes fluidly switches between the first, second and third person in the narrative. Rather than confuse the reader, it provides a unique angle to the words being written: subjective or objective? Heartfelt or surgical in precision? Real or imagined?

One of my favourite quotes from the story comes right near the end, when Barnes writes the following:

“‘We’re all just looking for a place of safety. And if you don’t find one, then you have to learn how to pass the time’. Back then it had sounded like a counsel of despair; now, it struck him as normal, and emotionally practical.”

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Quote of the Day

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In honour of Valentine’s Day, I present to you some literary gems about that mysterious, all-encompassing, ever-absorbing, selflessly selfish and painfully blissful notion we in English call  Image result for love sculpture.

 

“The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting that you are special too.”
Ernest Hemingway, Men Without Women

“If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger.”
Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights   

“Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.”
Maya Angelou

“Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.”
Robert Frost

And finally, from the master of the written word himself:

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls…For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

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On Love & Quotes

I like quotes. And, really, who doesn’t ? Bound by a cute pair of rabbit ears, a great quote can serve as a life mantra, a conversation starter, an impetus to change your life, a reason to learn more about a subject…the list is endless!

My friend and old ex-curler buddy, Stephen B., just tagged me in a Facebook Memory (didn’t even know they existed before this) and reminded me of a quote from Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey, a novel we read in our book club aeons ago. Wilder was in his own league when it came to English prose. I mean, here was a guy who really knew how to string together words in a way that hits you hard, not like a nudge on the shoulder, but more a hammer to the cerebral cortex that induces a shot of heaven-borne adrenalin to your organ of fire.

Check out this doozy from The Bridge of San Luis Rey:

Soon we shall die and all memory of those five will have left earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.

(ed. note: If you like Wilder, especially The Bridge of San Luis Rey, I strongly encourage you to read David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. Aside from The Bridge of San Luis Rey being one of Mitchell’s favourite books, he infused a lot from Wilder’s novel in his own epic, ranging from the character of Luisa Rey to the almost frequent mention of bridges at key moments in the story. )

While reading that Wilder quote again, I find it hauntingly similar to a passage I read years ago that was written by yet another literary giant more than 60 years before Wilder penned his ethereal prose on love. To quote Prince Andrei from War and Peace:

Love hinders death. Love is life. All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything is, everything exists, only because I love. Everything is united by it alone. Love is God, and to die means that I, a particle of love, shall return to the general and eternal source.

Now that I’m on the subject, though, I can’t but recall two of my all-time-forever-like-totally-can’t-forget-about-them quotes on this subject.

First, I present Lawrence Durrell from the first book in the Alexandria Quartet novels, Justine:

The loved object is simply one that has shared an experience at the same moment of time, narcissistically; and the desire to be near the beloved object is at first not due to the idea of possessing it, but simply to let the two experiences compare themselves, like reflections in different mirrors. All this may precede the first look, kiss, or touch; precede ambition, pride, or envy; precede the first declarations which mark the turning point—for from here love degenerates into habit, possession, and back to loneliness.

And I end with the man himself, Michael Ondaatje, and his swan song from The English Patient:

We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves. I wish for all this to be marked on by body when I am dead. I believe in such cartography – to be marked by nature, not just to label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings. We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience.

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