Happyreader's Reviews > The End of The Novel of Love

The End of The Novel of Love by Vivian Gornick
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's review
Mar 11, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: women-of-interest, writing
Read in April, 2008

I was torn between giving this book three or four stars. The writing is excellent but I was left ultimately unfulfilled, appropriate given the theme of this book. I enjoyed the ride but I'm not sure where I ended up. I finally decided on four stars since the problem may be more a reflection on current literature than on the author's own insights.

This is a well-written analysis of a shift in literature critiquing the inadequacy of romantic love as the ultimate conveyer of true happiness; that true happiness can only be gained by abandoning fantasy and taking full responsibility for one’s own life without hope of salvation from outside powers. That’s a lovely premise. But this book ends up only stating the problem, how romantic love and sexual connections frequently devolve into bitter feelings of entrapment, without literary examples of transcending this state. Perhaps that’s the final conclusion – romantic love has lost its power as a metaphor of fulfillment but we’re still too fearful to take in the reality that it’s up to oneself and oneself alone to do the hard work of finding a path of true fulfillment. Perhaps we're just too attached to the fantasy. Heck, I still think I'll win the lottery -- even though I rarely buy tickets.
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11/27/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Lena (new)

Lena This looks interesting. Have you read Denis De Rougemont's Love in the Western World? It's not an easy read, but it discusses the fascinating idea that modern romantic love is the descendent of a practice heretical Cathars developed to hide their unaccepted forms of worship from prying priests.

The purpose of Cathar romantic love was not to consummate the relationship with the other, but rather to use those feelings to fuel the longing for God. Understanding that as the origin of romantic love went a long way towards helping me reign in my own unrealistic expectations in that realm.

message 2: by Happyreader (last edited Apr 20, 2008 10:00AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Happyreader I have not read that. I'll keep that book in mind. Thanks.

What I had been looking for in this book wasn't so much one about love as one about going beyond love as the end all and be all of life. Vivian Gornick is a self-described ardent feminist, the book is published by Beacon Press, so I was expecting something more forward-thinking. Gornick definately goes in that direction but never discusses any literature that completely transcends the genre to focus instead on the hard work of self-realization. That book skillfully done may not yet exist.

Maybe we're not ready for that topic. The hard work of dealing with reality is not as sexy and enthralling as one about finding true love and all is well. Even tragic books about how love is hell are preferable since they still deal with the other -- and blaming the other is still preferable to taking responsibility for oneself since there is still the prospect of another other coming along to help create that perfect life but you're always stuck with the same old self.

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