Love from my bookshelf

February 14, 2016 — 6 Comments

That’s what I thought love would be like.
Reading Whitman and fighting the urge not to express your aesthetic superiority.

-Paul Beatty,


Some passages about love in the books I’m reading lately:

From The Diary of Frida Kahlo, a letter to Diego:

Nothing compares to your hands
nothing like the green-gold of
your eyes. My body is filled
with you for days and days. you are
the mirror of the night. the vio-
lent flash of lightning. the
dampness of the earth.
…All my joy
is to feel life spring from
your flower-fountain that mine
keeps to fill all
the paths of my nerves
which are yours.

From Franz Kafka’s Letters to Milena:

…love is to me that you are the knife which I turn within myself.

From Anne Carson’s “The Glass Essay”:

To see the love between Law and me
turn into two animals gnawing and craving through one anothertowards some other hunger was terrible.
What is love?
My questions were not original.
Nor did I answer them.

From Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being:

But was it love? The feeling of wanting to die beside him was clearly exaggerated: he had seen her only once before in his life! Was it simply the hysteria of a man who, aware deep down of his ineptitude for love felt the self-deluding need to simulate it? . . .

Looking out over the courtyard at the dirty walls, he realized he had no idea whether it was hysteria or love.

From Paul Beatty’s Slumberland:

Do you love me?

I’d never been in love. I’d always thought love was like reading Leaves of Grass in a crowded Westside park on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, having to suppress the urge with each giddy turn of the page to share your joy with the surrounding world. By ‘sharing’ I don’t mean quoting Whitman’s rhythm-machine poetics to a group of strangers waiting for auditions to be posted at the Screen Actors Guild, but wanting to stand up and scream, “I’m reading Walt Whitman, you joyless, shallow, walking-the-dog-by-carrying-the-dog, casting-courch-wrinkles-imprinted-in-your-ass, associate-producer’s-pubic-hairs-on-your-tongue, designer-perambulator-pushing-the-baby-you-and-your-Bel-Air-trophy-wife-had-by-inserting-someone-else’s-spermbank-jizz-in-a-surrogate-mother’s-uterus-because-you-and-your-sugar-daddy-were-too-busy-with-your-nonexistent-careers-to-fuck, no-day-job-having California Aryan assholes! I’m reading Whitman! . . . I’m reading Whitman, expanding my mind and melding with the universe! What have you done today? . . . Have you looked a the leaves of grass? No? I didn’t think so!” That’s what I thought love would be like. Reading Whitman and fighting the urge not to express your aesthetic superiority.


6 responses to Love from my bookshelf


    From “Good” by William Matthews:

    Listen, my little mongoose, I know
    the difference between this and love,
    for I’ve had love, and had it taken away.

    This feeling-sorry-for-ourselves-but-outward
    is one of desire’s shiftier shapes:
    see how the deep of night is crept upon our love-

    making, and how we believe what we disbelieve,
    and find in our hopeful arms what we’d thought
    to have thrown away, my stolen good,

    the map by which we’ll part, and love others.

    . . .


      Oh, that’s a good one. Thanks for sharing!


        Glad you liked! Thanks for sharing those you posted. Got one more for you…a long-time favorite from a book that’s getting hard to find now: Erica Jong’s Half-Lives. It’s a section of “PROLOGUE/The Evidence” and kind of long:

        & if it wasn’t love,
        if you called me now
        across the old echo chamber of the ocean
        & said:
        “Look, I never loved you,”
        I would feel
        a little like a fool perhaps,
        & yet it wouldn’t matter.

        My business is to always feel
        a little like a fool
        & speak of it.

        & I am sure
        that when we love
        we are better than ourselves
        & when we hate

        & even if we call it madness later
        & scrawl four-letter words
        across those outhouse walls
        we call our skulls–
        we stand revealed
        by those sudden moments
        when we come together.

        Or was it just my dream
        waltzing with your dream?
        My nightmare kissing yours?

        When I awakened
        did I walk with Jacob’s limp?
        Did I sing a different song?
        Did I find the inside of my palm
        scarred as if
        (for moments) it held fire?
        Did my blood flow as riverwater flows
        around a tree stump–
        crooked, with a lilt?

        What other evidence
        did I need?


          Okay, two more before I fade back into the woodwork:
          A sad one, “Love Poem” by Richard Brautigan:

          It’s so nice
          to wake up in the morning
          all alone
          and not have to tell somebody
          you love them
          when you don’t love them
          any more.

          And a bittersweet sentence that’s not a poem, from Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut:

          She was what fate had given him to love, and he did his best to love her.


    Amazing, isn’t it, how some words can just grab your heart and once read will stay with you for the rest of your life? Thanks for making a page that opened doors and stirred memories!

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