Harper Perennial, $13.95, ISBN 0-06-092796-8
Contemporary Fiction, 1997
Nobel Prize winner Doris Lessing’s Love, Again is said to be a love story, which is why I ended up buying this book even when I generally shy away from books like this sort. You know, this sort. The kind of books reviewed by people who spend nearly the entire review gushing about the sentence structures or the way the consonants are arranged next to the vowels, to the point that I will ask in bewilderment, “So, what’s the story again?” To which the reviewer will then sniff and look at me in disdain as he snorts back, “Story? What is a mere story compared to the beautiful elegy of the consonants fluttering around the vowels in a manner reminiscent of the great poetic dancing of the pens of Joyce and Browning! What do you mere readers know? Don’t just read the book, live the prose! But you will need a fancy degree like mine before you can do that, of course, so you may as well resign yourself to a lifetime of reading your lowbrow soul-sucking genre stories, you peasant. Bow before my intellectual superiority, maggot!”
If you ask me what the story is about, I’ll just say that it is a rambling of a 65-year old woman who spends an eternity wailing that it is tough when you’re 65 and fancying yourself infatuated with a man young enough to be your son. Not that it has ever stopped any well-moneyed 65-year old man from hooking up with a woman young enough to be his daughter before, but I suppose that since Sarah Durham is a woman, it’s different for her. And therefore, I am subjected to plenty of pages where Sarah psychoanalyzes everything from the clouds to the cracks in the wall to life and death and everything and anything in between. Reading this book is like watching a bunch of self-absorbed narcissists trying to talk over each other about who the biggest drama queen of them all is. They don’t talk, they just spend time giving long-winded internal monologues about how their lives dramatically suck to the point that I suspect that I can lock them up in a room with a mirror for company and they will never notice the difference.
I wish I love this book, I really do. I feel my IQ plummet by at least 60 points each time I turn the page and find myself wondering in despair, “Why? Why? Why can’t I fall in love with the prose? I’m really going to seem stupid when I write a review that doesn’t gush about the poetry of the syntax or the magic of the full stop or something, anything, about this book!”
So here I am, surrendering to the inevitable. I’m quite embarrassed to admit this, but I find myself close to falling asleep rather than being intellectually aroused by this story. I find this story about a woman having to live through all kinds of Oh, Terrible Burdens of Life drama more like something designed to impress literary folks convinced that it isn’t quality literature unless everyone is resigned to the fact that life utterly sucks at the end of the day.
Love, Again is one of those literary stories that make me go, “No, please, not again.”