Friday, April 20, 2007

The New York Public Library and I do not see eye-to-eye

So The New York Public Library has released a list of the top ten greatest love stories of all time (full article here). Note they say "stories," not books, and love, not romance.

Here's the list, with my comments. It's not clear if this list was compiled in any order of priority.

1. Wuthering Heights. Or as I call it, Withering Heights. I hated this book. Hated. So much melodrama, so many confusing names, and Heathcliff is beyond-the-pale abusive at the end. Female author.

Also, Wuthering Heights and not Jane Eyre? Already I know this list is not going to reflect either my preferences.

2. Anna Karenina. Never read it. It always struck me as one of those books I ought to read, not that I'd choose to read. Doesn't Anna throw herself under a train at the end? Male author.

3. Romeo and Juliet. Two teenagers fall victim to their hormones, much violence and death ensue, including that of the ill-fated teens. I don't think what Romeo and Juliet feel is love. It's lust, but lust portrayed by Shakespeare and what a difference that makes! Male playwright.

4. Casablanca. Frankly, I don't get the appeal of this movie. I much prefer It Happened One Night. But again, in Casablanca, the couple wind up apart. Three male screenwriters, adapted from a play by two playwrights, one male, one female.

5. Midsummer Night’s Dream. This one totally baffles me. Oberon and Titania? There's a romantic couple, fighting over the kid they abducted. The other four crazy kids running around in the woods? They're enchanted. Yep, magic, that's what it's all about. (It's only one short step from here to the glittery hooha!)

Of all of Shakespeare's comedies, this is the one they pick? I just don't get it...but I suppose I should be happy nobody dies. And again, it's by Shakespeare. Male playwright.

6. Doctor Zhivago. Oh my word. Can't one of these stories end with the couple together and, ya know, alive? Male author.

7. Sense and Sensibility. Finally, a story where love is not destructive and/or tending to make one utterly miserable. If there had been no Jane Austen books on this list, I would have been frothing at the mouth. Female author.

8. Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame. There's another Hunchback of Notre Dame by somebody other than Victor Hugo? Who knew? Never read it. But again, not a happy ending. Male author.

9. Dangerous Liaisons. What the heck? Poetic justice is done because Valmont the cad dies, but it's considered a love story? Twisted, abusive relationship story maybe, but love? Not as I define it. Original novel written by a man.

10. Pride and Prejudice. Only the second story where love makes people happy, not miserable and suicidal. Better than nothing, I guess. Happy ending, written by a female author.

In defense of the unhappy endings, they're unhappy because love is thwarted, either by circumstances or death or both. It's not love itself that's bad; it's frustrated love that causes all the trouble.

Still, if one is going by this list, a story about frustated love makes for a more "worthy" love story than fulfilled love. Especially if it's written about by a man.

Don't get me started....


Leah Braemel said...

Oh. My. Lord. That's the list? Horrible choices!

And thank you thank you thank you - I too hated Wuthering Heights - I found nothing 'romantic' about it, and never could understand all the movie heroines sighing about Heathcliff.

Wonder if it was a mainly male population choosing the books over at NYPL?

trish said...

what a list!?! 'nuff said

I just got the Duke's Desire in the mail, thanks so much and the card was lovely :)

Maureen McGowan said...

Wow. That is an apalling list.

Nicholas said...

Speaking as a male, I couldn't stand WH either. In fact I must be a philistine because I haven't read half the books on that list. I was forced to read P & P at school so am prejudiced agaist it. And I can't see why anyone would pick Midsummer N's D when they could have chosen Much Ado!

Margaret Moore said...

Leah, I didn't see anything that explained how they came to those conclusions. Survey? Questionnaire? Darts at a board? Librarians? Readers? It's a mystery.

Trish, thanks for letting me know you got the book! Hope you like it!

Maureen, I was just baffled by some of the choices. Baffled.

Nicholas, I haven't read Anna Karenina, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Dr. Zhivago... I think they're trying to kindle interest in those books (nothing like controversy to get noticed),'s not working for me. Too bad you got turned off by studying P & P. Maybe you can give it another try when you don't have to think about theme or imagery or whatever?