Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Review: "Love, In Theory" by E.J. Levy

Title: Love, In Theory
E.J. Levy
The University of Georgia Press
Date Published: 
September 15, 2012

How I Heard About It: The wonderful women of TLC Book Tours.

Two Sentence Summary:  In ten short stories, E.J. Levy's complicated characters explore love and its many [per]mutations over time.  Each piece is exploration within a new frame, guided by a shifting intellectual lens and also by the characters' quirky interests-made-metaphor: expensive woven rugs, creative writing prompts, philosophy courses.

"Desire confounds categories." (pg 69)

Things I Think: This book was challenging for me because of the immediate breadth of topic that lives in the title. Calling a book (essentially) "LOVE" is quite a tall order, and (unless it is magnificently executed) a potentially fatal misstep for an artist.  So I approached warily.  

The first story ("The Best Way Not to Freeze") employed a metaphor that made my writerly self shudder: a shattered plate glued back together, with obligatory reference to the irreparable cracks.  I felt (and still feel) shocked that this egregious cliche cropped up so immediately, because as I forged on, Levy's writing overflowed with unique imagery and beautifully crafted sentences. 

"Did you hear it?" he asked.
"Someone screaming?"
"Night hawk," he said.
"In the city?"
"They nest on rooftops and cliffs."
She still wonders if he wasn't mistaken, if the sound wasn't a seagull or someone being mugged, which in his longing Gil mistook for something rare and loved and absent. (pg 43)

author E.J. Levy
So many of Levy's images have stayed with me: an apartment overtaken by oriental rugs; index cards carrying secrets and regret, floating whitely down a highway at night; hypothermia survival tips arbitrarily tacked to a suburban fridge. While the basic situations are not unfamiliar (cheating spouses, abandonment by a lover, etc.) the characters are so infused with life and legitimacy.  It is from them that the book gains its gusto. 

There is a brisk trade in divination these days - astrological columns, palm readings - people seem less interested in preparatory contemplation than in foreknowledge, which seems to me to have it backward.

After all, what good is knowing what's to come if you're ill prepared to cope with it? (page 62)


Erika Lee @ A Tiny Rocket said...

The book sounds good!, I will totally add this to my reading list. I always love a book of short stories because you get a bunch of mini stories in 1 book.

Audra said...

Spot on with the plate observation -- I hadn't caught it at the time as I was so hung up on getting to the lesbian/straight man affair story -- but it really was sort of 'meh' for an otherwise gorgeous story. This collection really captured me -- I wanted to keep it to reread but it was immediately wrested from my hands by friends.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

Thanks for being on the tour!