Love, novel-style

Tomorrow is St. Valentine’s Day, which I call “Halloween for Lovers”. It’s a religious day that was coopted by big business to sell you more shit because January and February suck in retail post-Xmas. Regardless, people seem to go in for it, so half the articles out there right now are blabbering about romance, etc. My concession to you all is one article: this woman was courted by a smoothie who made his move through her favourite novel. Aw, isn’t it …lovely… how closely courting and stalking are? It’s like a Sting song.

This sort of thing was still in circulation when I was a kid, and yet some people still argue about the existence of the patriarchy

“Hello, I’m Mark,” he said warmly, extending his hand with (I came to learn) characteristic frankness. “Who are you?”

“Not now,” I replied, batting the hand away with (I must insist on this) uncharacteristic curtness. I was tired. I was wary. I had recently been dumped by a man to whom I had devoted considerable attention, and I wasn’t ready for a new entanglement, let alone conversation, with a stranger.

The encounter would have ended there had Mark not demonstrated unusual and, given the circumstances, inexplicable persistence. He obtained my email address from a mutual friend and energetically deployed it. Eventually I found myself having lunch with him, and of course we talked about books — terrain we’d already established as common ground. We exchanged the names of our favorite novels and joked about the fact that he had not read mine, nor I his.

The next day, a copy of his arrived in the mail: “Vineland,” by Thomas Pynchon. And then, a few days later, came a crisp handwritten card containing a passage from mine, Henry James’s “The Portrait of a Lady”: “There was such a thrill even in the preliminary hovering.”

When that card was followed by an invitation to brunch, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. There were more meals after that, along with, at crucial intervals, handwritten cards featuring lines from my favorite novel.

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