Pride and Prejudice
Elizabeth and Darcy are rock stars of star-crossed love. I mean, my dear friend’s standard poodle is named Mister Darcy. I know people who went to see the exhibition of The Shirt. And these two lovers should be so embraced! They have an impossible labyrinth to get through, perfectly impossible, and they earn their triumph. It’s a magical equation by the master Jane Austen.
Winston and Julia suffer when Big Brother reaches up into the constellations and thinks he can move things around. Then they play out what it means to rebel, to rebel with love—a perfect thing to study right now.
84, Charing Cross Rd
This nonfiction epistolary story is a treasure chest, packed with a wry New Yorker (Helene herself), a formal Brit (the bookseller Frank Doel at 84, Charing Cross), a genuine old-school badass bookstore, actual letters handwritten and exchanged via the postal system, and decades of life and star-crossed friendship distilled in the correspondence.
Romeo and Juliet
The star-crossed blueprint. But this glorious play has a secret escape plan in it for cursed lovers, so I use this quote to open White Fur: “Call me but love, / and I’ll be new baptized; / Henceforth I never will be Romeo.” The possibility that we can slip the shackles of social identity, and run away, become someone new, by way of love—this means the world to me.
From its inception, White Fur was a star-crossed lovers’ story. It was never going to be anything but. I started to write it more than six years ago and I’m trying to remember why I laser-focused on that.
I think the prospect of messing around with and playing with this kind of raw young love just seemed dangerously fun. Like getting drunk on July 4th and dragging out a box of fireworks and a lighter.
But my agenda also had something to do with glorifying failure—to be honest, I’ve never been very good at love. My partner right now is an awesome human being, but even he’ll tell you there’s still an awkward loner in here. Certain friends of mine have dazzled me all my life by seeming born for relationships, like they got a playbook, like it’s no big thing. So I guess I get liberated, comforted, when I read about love that’s impossible, that spills blood, that’s hard as hell. Is that a cheap or rude fix on my part?
But truly, mostly, lastly—the architecture of Romeo and Juliet’s dilemma just seemed so right to test out a question burning in my heart these days: can love beat hate?
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