Life and Art – Imitation and Reflection

As some of you know, my personal life hasn’t been too good lately. As a result I’ve been gorging myself on chick -lit, wanting to escape into a world where the worst thing that can happen to the herione is her loser boyfriend finding someone else, but we know that in less than 300 pages she will have a new business, new look and a new man and be deliriously happy.

Sometimes life is like that. Not my life. But someone, somewhere, get’s that life.

This binge has made me think a lot about how we perceive and present love. As readers we tend to think of love stories as being light and fluffy, full of lust and longing and always with a happy ending. But there are other love stories that aren’t so straight forward. There are the love stories that are full of hurt and sorrow and pain.

Sometimes life is a Trisha Ashley novel, but mostly it’s Wuthering Heights.

There was a trend a few years ago for the grittier side of love stories – the stories that break your heart, which was refreshing because for the most part I think writers are sometimes afraid to show the other side of love, and sometimes readers are afraid to open themselves up to a story about imperfect love. Sometimes it seems that by admitting that love isn’t always perfect, we are somehow tarnishing it and the love in our own lives.

To handle the darker love stories takes skill. It would be too easy to cast your characters are unstable or just unlikeable, but in the right hands the reader will care passionately about them, will be hurt when they are hurt, cry when they cry and come away changed.

You see, sometimes love is an unpleasant thing. Love brings out the best, and the worst in people. It can raise you up to a dizzy level of happiness you never knew existed, and it can hurt you in the most hot and intense way possible. When you are in love you feel everything so much more. Every smile means more, but so does every cross word. Every hurt hurts more than it would have otherwise.

Modern life has not minimised the effects of love. Modern attitudes towards sex have changed and often those perceptions can become muddled with how we feel about love. SATC has convinced us that sex is love and that we can crash from relationship to relationship without ever getting our heart broken. But, and I hate to admit this, it also highlighted those relationships, those people, that we can never quite let go.

We see it a lot, in everything from SATC to The Gargoyle – most of us have that single person, that one relationship that is never quite over, that we never quite get past, that we are pulled back to over and over again, even when things are as bad as they can possibly be in the relationship, there’s always still something there. Sometimes, like in Friends, it’s played for laughs, becomes a sort of in-joke only sometimes marred with sadness. In other stories, such as This Other Eden, we see the obsession and destruction that comes with that one love when the despair starts to outweigh the happiness. The depths of hurt and sadness that come with that one person are played out for the reader.

Love puts everything under the microscope – good and bad.

In truth, in real life, we let the people we love do the most horrible things to us, things that we would never let a more casual friend do.  In turn, we treat those we love in the worst ways.

But only when we see this reflected back at us in literature do we see the truth – that sometimes love does hurt.

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