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To all the books I’ve loved before

Observer Viewpoint | Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Around Feb. 14, harried Viewpoint columnists at The Observer begin to hammer out a plethora of columns related to love and Valentine’s Day. Let’s be honest – there’s not much else going on at Notre Dame at this time of year. As an English major and therefore a romantic (who among our ranks is not?), Valentine’s Day has always brought forth ideas from my favorite plays, novels and films.

At all ages, our conception of love is aided by the arts. From a seven-year-old obsession with “The Sound of Music” and the romance between the characters of Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer to my current undying love for the movie “Annie Hall,” I learned both how to be constant and how to adapt. Practically every day of second grade when I came home from school, I would start “The Sound of Music” where it had left the day before. If that’s not a crash course in fidelity, I don’t know what is. Although I still retain my affection for the film, as I grew older, the quirky sarcasm of Woody Allen grew more and more appealing, showing me that in love, as in life, it’s all right to grow into something new, and perhaps better, yet view the past with a pleasant nostalgia.

How an author defines or captures love has always been fascinating to me, and the dreary South Bend mists of late readily bring to mind Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights.” In the novel, Catherine says of Heathcliff, “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” In all of literature, this line has always been one of my favorites, expressing the ultimate fusion between two people who love one another.

From Gatsby’s hopeless passion to the star-crossed love of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, these works of art demonstrate, as Shakespeare writes in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “The course of true love never did run smooth.” But the fact the playwright and Fitzgerald even chose to commit these stories to print, as well as their lasting popularity today, shows readers still recognize the emotions of these characters. Although some would describe these loves as futile, they are nonetheless vital.

In life, as in literature, we learn from our experiences and our heartbreaks. Yet still, how can one not admire, in Fitzgerald’s own words, “some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life … an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness?”

The lesson in all of these tales is we should never give up on the ideals of love. Think of it as a rallying cry – rather than describing yourself as a hopeless romantic, perhaps the term should be hopeful. So … hopeful romantics unite! Don’t be afraid to admit how much you liked “Love Actually” or “Casablanca.”

Like Don Quixote, tilt at the windmills of life in search of that ideal love. Watch “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” Look at Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss.” Read “Wuthering Heights” or “Gone with the Wind.” And don’t ever think you can’t find or create this kind of romance in your own world.

As Erica Jong once queried, “Do you want me to tell you something really subversive? Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. That’s why people are so cynical about it … It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.”

So risk it. Risk love. In literature and in this vast cosmos we call life, it’s one of the things that makes it all worthwhile.

As I said before, read “Gone with the Wind,” but unlike Scarlett O’Hara, don’t wait and think about this tomorrow. Think about love today.

Katie Boyle is a senior English, political science and Spanish major. She supports the Democratic Party. She can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.