best reading experience of 2009: LOVE JUNKIE vs A VINDICATION OF LOVE
(This is The Best of 2009 Blog Challenge. It’s kind of awesome. If you have a blog you should check it out.)
What book – fiction or non – touched you? Where were you when you read it? Have you bought and given away multiple copies?
Two books marked my brain this year because of how they balanced and countered one another.
The first is Rachel Resnick’s LOVE JUNKIE. I’ve raved about it on my blog and given away copies. It is fearless and intelligent writing about a dimension of human experience we tend not to understand and aren’t supposed to talk about in polite (or not so polite) company.
I came across it when I was researching sex/love addiction for my novel-in-progress THE DECADENTS, flopped on the couch and swallowed it whole. Resnick writes about what happens when healthy human drives get distorted into shadow versions of themselves. Love addicts are wired through biology and experience to love (and make love) in ways that estrange them from the intimacy that love requires.
Resnick offers herself and her recovery as case study.
She cuts her life open with talent and craft.
Then I read Cristina Nehring’s A VINDICATION OF LOVE: Reclaiming Romance for the 21st Century.
Romantic love, argues Nehring, needs to be “reinvented for our time”. She scorns today’s “cult of safe love” and draws examples from literature, folklore and philosophy as well as the lives of pioneering woman artists to prove that love is supposed to be dangerous. The goal should not be to sanitize it with Hallmark cards and faded marriages, but
“to confront the role of transgression, the effect of power inequalities, the place for obsession, the reality of strife, the seduction of chastity, the necessity of heroism, the draw, sometimes, of death. Love is a volatile play of shadow and light. It is a brush with the sublime.”
It’s hard to imagine something like love/sex addiction even existing in Nehring’s world, where imagination, intensity, eroticism and suffering signal a kind of heightened experience that means you’ve lived deeply and well.
Any reader with a history of bad relationships, divorce, or intensive therapy might think that Nehring is at times celebrating the pathological. But VINDICATION is reckless and liberating and playful and fun.
The worst sin, Nehring argues, is not to sin, but to settle. We’re slaves to passion only if we’re lucky.