Love, In Theory is a literary collection of ten short stories about how love works. Levy touches on all kinds of relationships: married, unmarried, heterosexual, homosexual, transgender, older couples, younger couples. All of the stories have a running theme of infidelity (except perhaps the first one).
Levy’s characters attempt to figure out what infidelity means in today’s world. Is it really wrong? Can you still love your partner even if you aren’t monogamous? She hits on a lot of the same questions as books like The Unbearable Lightness of Being (which I think must have inspired some of these stories. There is even a line in the last story about how lightness can feel so heavy and I was like OK, Milan Kundera).
Her characters are smart and insightful and a little lost. Many of them feel disconnected in some way. Maybe they are broken, or maybe they know what they don’t want but not what they do want. At some point in your life you have probably also felt this way. I know I have! I actually just wrote a story for my creative fiction class (I’m takin’ a fiction class, y’all) about it. The brilliant part is that her characters aren’t melodramatic even though they are depressive, which is a fine line to draw.
Let me give you an example of the best comparison that I’ve read in a really long time. My mouth was open in awe and I wanted to clap. At the end of the first story (my favorite story!), the main character has just lost the first man she has ever really loved and she compares it to a time when she climbed a rock wall. Once she got high enough, she freaked out and froze up. She was calling for help for a long time before anyone came to save her. And even though she knew they were coming and that she was going to be OK eventually, she couldn’t help but be terrified and feel totally alone in the meantime. Man, can Levy craft an ending!
E.J. Levy’s style is very simple but packs a lot of meaning. Her stories taught me so much about writing. We are learning about a bunch of different writing techniques in class, and she made them come alive and make sense.
I LOVED these stories! I find questions about marriage and monogamy fascinating because, although I love romance novels, I’m a little skeptical of the kind of big love that is portrayed in them. That said, Love, In Theory can be rough for an optimist to handle. I found myself wishing the stories were more hopeful. I was expecting literary romance stories, but got something different (and possibly better?). Perhaps there is more universal truth in sadness than in happiness?
E. J. Levy is an award-winning writer. Her short stories and essays have appeared in Best American Essays, The New York Times, The Kenyon Review, and Paris Review, among other places, and have earned a Pushcart Prize, a Nelson Algren Award, a scholarship to Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and twice been named among the year’s 100 Distinguished Stories in Best American Short Stories, among other honors. She is editor of Tasting Life Twice: Literary Lesbian Fiction by New American Writers (Avon), which won the Lambda Literary Award. This is her fiction debut.
To learn more, visit ejlevy.com.
Monday, September 17th: Unabridged Chick
Tuesday, September 18th: Paperspines
Wednesday, September 19th: What She Read …
Thursday, September 20th: A Reader of Fictions
Tuesday, September 25th: The Betty and Boo Chronicles
Wednesday, September 26th: Kind of a Mess
Thursday, September 27th: Picky Girl
Monday, October 1st: missris
Tuesday, October 2nd: Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Thursday, October 4th: Life in Review
Monday, October 8th: Sweet Southern Home
Tuesday, October 9th: Bonjour, Cass!
Wednesday, October 10th: In the Next Room
Friday, October 12th: Book Reviews by Molly
Friday, October 12th: Dreaming in Books
Tuesday, October 16th: Conceptual Reception
Thursday, October 18th: The Mookse and the Gripes