Valentine's Day: Your librarian's favorites
The origin of Valentine's Day isn't clear. Maybe it commemorates the death of St. Valentine, a Roman clergyman executed Feb. 14, 270 A.D. because he secretly married couples against orders from the emperor. Or, it could be a celebration of the mating season for birds.
Whatever its roots, at Close-Up, we believe there is love and romance in the air this week. We polled librarians in the Salt Lake County Library System for their favorite picks of romantic poetry and prose. Here are the results:
"You Who Never Arrived by Rainer Maria Rilke, is about unattainable love, a love that is forever elusive. Is the poem about the yearning for an ideal Beloved who only exists in our hearts never to be realized, or is the Beloved the creative force itself - the Muse - embodied in the poet's endless quest for its blessing?"
-Mary Anne Heider, Anderson-Foothill library branch
". . . and so you see I have come to doubt
all that I once held as true
I stand alone, without beliefs
the only truth I know is you . . ." lyrics from "Kathy's Song" by Simon & Garfunkel.
-Kathy Smith, Salt Lake City Public Library
"So That You Will Hear Me by Pablo Neruda. 'The wind of anguish still hauls on them as usual. Sometimes hurricanes of dreams still knock them over. You listen to other voices in my painful voice . . . ' Love wakes up and that is what this poem is about . . . and how love can bring you out of it [an anguish]."
-Jody Plant, Salt Lake City Public Library
"Annabel Lee, by Edgar Allan Poe, is the most romantic poem. 'It was many and many a year ago, In a kingdom by the sea, That a maiden there lived whom you may know, By the name of Annabel Lee; And this maiden she lived with no other thought, Than to love and be loved by me . . .'
-Jane Mabey, Salt Lake City Public Library
"If I had to choose the most romantic poem I've ever read, it would have to be Shakespeare's sonnet, Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? The most romantic part of it in my eyes is that [Shakespeare] wrote this poem so that the object of his affections, and thus his love for her, would never die. 'So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, / So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.' [Sigh]."
- Sara Vandermolen, Salt Lake City Public Library
"Sonnet XLIII by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. This poem represents idealistic, positive love, a love that longs to be immortal but which will also stand the everyday tests of mortal existence. It is what lovers feel when they make the decision to be together for the rest of their lives and perhaps, beyond."
- Mary Anne Heider, Anderson-Foothill library branch
The Well of Loneliness: a 1920's Classic of Lesbian Fiction by Radclyffe Hall (1928)
"Hall's narrative depicts a timeless story of passion, support and love between an unconventional woman named Stephen and a beautiful ingnue named Mary. This classic portrayal of lesbian love nearly ruined Hall's literary career. Half a century later, its message of prejudice and persecution sadly, remain relevant today. When I first read this book in the spring of 1981, its message touched me and I was disappointed that it had to end."
-Kiku Kimura, librarian, Whitmore Library
Beyond the Sky and Earth: Journey to Bhutan by Jamie Zeppa.
"This is a moving memoir that takes us on a journey from the relative comfort of the Western world to the kingdom of Bhutan. Jamie, although unprepared for the remoteness and primitive living conditions, soon discovers the beauty and wonder of this exotic country and finds that the strength of love can be a powerful force connecting people of differing cultures."
- Jim Cooper, library director, Salt Lake County Library
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.
"A tragic story of star-crossed lovers or a woeful tale of irrational teenagers? I prefer to believe the former. Who can resist the beautiful language that Shakespeare has employed, 'But soft! What light though yonder window breaks? It is the east and Juliet is the sun.' "
- Anna Zanarini, youth services librarian, Whitmore Library
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel.
"Romance and chocolate in the same book? What could be better? Earthy, magical and charming, [this book] is the perfect romantic read!"
-Janelle Mattheus, youth services librarian, Whitmore Library
- Compiled by Julie DeHerra
"Sonnet XII by Edna St. Vincent Millay, evokes great, immortal, passionate, Romantic love Ð which is ultimately forbidden and self-destructive. If it is obtained, however, there is a high price to pay to the demanding blade of Time Ð which kills passion slowly Ð like being stabbed to death with a butter knife. It will not stand the tests of everyday existence. As Jean Cocteau observed, 'all love is a little death, but great love is suicide.'"
-- Mary Anne Heider, Anderson-Foothill library branch
Salt Lake County Library system librarians also recommend:
ADULT FICTION AND NON-FICTION
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Booty Food by Jacqui Malouf
Intercourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook by Martha Hopkins
Valentine's Day by Fern G. Brown
The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana by Vatsyayana
Queen of Hearts by Mary Englebreit
Nate the Great and the Mushy Valentine by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
Olive My Love by Vivian Walsh
Somebody Likes You Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli
Roses Are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink by Diane de Groat
YOUNG ADULT FICTION
Beauty: A Retelling of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley
Two Suns in the Sky by Miriam Bat Ami
Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block