Christina (A Reader of Fictions)'s Reviews > Love, in Theory: Ten Stories

Love, in Theory by E.J. Levy
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's review
Dec 14, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: quiltbag, favorites-contemps, on-my-shelves
Read from September 15 to 17, 2012 — I own a copy

In the past, I have always avoided short fiction, with the grudging exception of some anthologies with really appealing themes (ex. Zombies vs. Unicorns). Generally, short stories haven't made a whole lot of sense to me, since they tend either to be scrapped ideas that weren't good enough to make into a novel or too short to do a fabulous idea justice. Either I don't want the story at all or I want it to be much longer, a proper novel. Well, I happily report that E. J. Levy's short story collection Love, in Theory is precisely what I want short fiction to be.

These ten stories dovetail together nicely, covering a lot of the same ground with slight variations. I love Levy's writing, even in the stories I didn't care for as much. She also makes a lot of fabulous observations with a cynicism and honesty I find quite delightful. I expected this collection of stories about love to be something like a written version of the film Love, Actually, and I suppose it sort of is. However, Levy's stories are all a bit on the melancholy side, lacking the cute couples uniting to make a happy ending, like Love, Actually has, though it actually does have several stories that do not end well.

The last TLC blog tour I participated in was for Before the Rain: A Memoir of Love and Revolution, a memoir supposedly of love and revolution that follows the romance of two lesbian reporters. I could not help comparing these two, because for all that Before the Rain is non-fiction and Love, in Theory fiction, this short story collection feels infinitely more personal. Having finished this, whether incorrectly or no, I feel I have a sense of who E. J. Levy is, through some of the themes that continually appeared throughout the stories, especially as several of the main characters were writers or worked in academia. In reading this, I felt as though I could sense Levy working through issues she had confronted in her own life or in the lives of close friends and family members. This closeness I felt for the author, whether I'm right or not, made the stories so much more powerful for me.

Over half of the stories focus on well-educated women in their late twenties to early thirties, who struggle with love and romance. These women long for romance, for connection, but, when they find it, the theory of the emotion, the ideal, the dream, does not really seem to fit into their lives. These stories, while they might bore some with the similarity of the heroines, held the most appeal for me, since I cannot help seeing myself reflected in them. Reading about women who have similar reactions and difficulties with romantic relationships to mine was incredibly cathartic.

Another subject that comes up in nearly every story is adultery. If you can't handle stories of infidelity, this collection will not be for you. The adultery comes in just about every form, and, though that's a subject I don't tend to love either, handled quite deftly. This does not seem to have been included for shock value or torridness, but just because that's life; it's a thing that happens and, unfortunately, has to be included in any depiction of love, in the working out of what love really might mean in the face of all of this cheating.

The other most interesting repetition, that again I can't help but stick out to me as perhaps being personal, is that of a lesbian becoming very attracted to a straight man, whether or not she acts on it. Interesting, too, is that the sole gay main character does not question his sexuality, though he does fight against settling down, as almost all of these characters do. The LGBT themes run strongly here, appearing in slightly less than half of the stories.

These stories will not appeal to everyone, but I loved it. A couple of the stories in the middle fell flat for me story-wise, so I couldn't quite rate this five stars. The themes and tone herein remind me a lot of Carol Shields' The Republic of Love, so if you enjoyed that I recommend this heartily, and vice versa.
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Quotes Christina (A Reader of Fictions) Liked

E.J. Levy
“As a scholar, it was her job to see things in relationship to other things; the only thing she couldn't see in a relationship was herself.”
E.J. Levy, Love, in Theory: Ten Stories

Reading Progress

09/15/2012 page 29
12.0% "The first story was REALLY good."
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Audra (Unabridged Chick) (last edited Sep 20, 2012 03:09PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Audra (Unabridged Chick) omg, thank you for saying so -- I had planned to be ranty in my review about the lesbian falling for a married guy but no man, straight or otherwise, had same sex infidelity attractions! -- but then I mellowed out, as you know. Still, I'm deeply grateful you pointed it out!

Christina (A Reader of Fictions) Hahah, yeah, I wasn't sure how much was cool to say, but it DID feel very specific! Did you feel like it was a reflection of Levy?

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