What would be more appropriate for the week of Valentine’s Day than a book about the nature of love?
On Love by Alain de Botton
It is very, very rare that I read a book that forces me to stop and breathe every so often. This was one of them.
Alain de Botton writes about his journey through love with a woman, and, along the way, very clearly outlines the way that love gets into every single pore of a person, turning them more inward than anything else. In de Botton’s mind, love is a selfish act that says more about the lover than the beloved. And God. I see it.
This book resonated with me as a 27 year old, single woman. I wonder how it would resonate if I was 45, or if I had been married at 20, or if I was 15. I feel like this is a book to keep around and return to every so often. I’m sure my middle-aged self will laugh at my naive 20-something musings. Maybe I’ll find de Botton insufferable and whiny instead of relatable (I sort of hope so). But for now, I’m going to revel in this narcissistic viewpoint as only my 27 year old self can.
Also, I’m pretty sure I’m going to start forcing this into the hands of all my friends with girlfriend/boyfriend troubles. Not sure if they’ll appreciate it, but they have no choice in the matter.
Some choice quotes:
“We fall in love because we long to escape from ourselves with someone as beautiful, intelligent, and witty as we are ugly, stupid, and dull. But what if such a perfect being should one day turn around and decide they will love us back? We can only be somewhat shocked-how can they be as wonderful as we had hoped when they have the bad taste to approve of someone like us?”
“Hence the sighing that drowns the sounds of lovers’ thoughts, a sighing that confirms the message I am too passionate to be thinking. i kiss, and therefore I do not think — such is the official myth under which lovemaking takes place, the bedroom a privileged space in which partners tacitly agree not to remind one another of the awe-inspiring wonder of their nudity.”
“Does beauty give birth to love, or does love give birth to beauty? …Surrounded by an infinite number of people, we may ask…why our desire has chosen to settle on this particular face, this particular mouth or nose or ear, why this curve of the neck or dimple in the cheek has come to answer so precisely to our criteria of perfection. Every one of our lovers offers different solutions to the problem of beauty and yet succeeds in redefining our amorous aesthetics in a way that is as original and as idiosyncratic as the landscape of their face.”
[on pet names] “It was a victory over the past, a symbol of the rechristening and rebirth afforded by love. I have found you with a given name, says the lover, but I am renaming you to label the difference between who you are to me and who you are to others. You may be called X at the office…but in my bed, you will always be ‘My Carrot’…”
And to end on a particularly upbeat note…
“Hanging over every love story is the thought, as horrible as it is unknowable, of how it will end. It is as when, in full health and vigor, we try to imagine our own death, the only difference between the end of love and the end of life being that at least in the latter, we are granted the comforting thought that we will not feel anything after death. No such comfort for the lover, who knows that the end of the relationship will not necessarily be the end of love, and almost certainly not the end of life.”