Love will turn your brain to syrup; herewith, books for those whose minds are rock-solid

Karl Marx was one of the more influential political philosophers of our era. He was also the author of some of the very worst love poetry of all time.

Jenny! Teasingly you may inquire
Why my songs “To Jenny” I address,
When for you alone my pulse beats higher,
When my songs for you alone despair,
When you only can their heart inspire,
When your name each syllable must confess,
When you lend each note melodiousness,
When no breath would stray from the Goddess?
’Tis because so sweet the dear name sounds,
And its cadence says so much to me,
And so full, so sonorous it resounds,
Like to vibrant Spirits in the distance,
Like the gold-stringed Cithern’s harmony,
Like some wondrous, magical existence.

Oh dear.

As Amber Frost wrote on the website Dangerous Minds, after posting loads and loads more of Marx’s poetry: “[I]f you’re single and living in dread of having no sweetie for Valentine’s Day, just remember—love makes syrup of even the greatest minds.”

The fearsome King Kong, mad god of a lost island, went gaga over a beautiful woman. And look what happened to him.

The tale of the doomed beast and his beauty begins simply enough, with a nutty film director parked on a ship in the New York harbour, looking to hire a starlet who’ll look smashing when framed in his camera lens. But the hotshot director refuses to say where the cast will be going, and the boat is packed full of explosives. Unsurprisingly, no one will give him the time of day.

At his wit’s end, Carl Denham goes off to recruit a naïve amateur, and finds a young, starving woman stealing an apple from a merchant. She agrees to the gig (not that she has much choice).

The troupe does eventually reach the uncharted island that Denham seeks. And on that day King Kong, expecting his usual human sacrifice, instead spies a vision: “Incredible, too, was the care with which he bore Ann. His primitive brain valued this strange possession for reasons it could not understand.”

Kong’s passion eventually leads him to his death.

King Kong is penned by Edgar Wallace, Merian C. Cooper and Delios W Lovelace, in a modern rewrite updating the 1932 tale to 2005, and is filed in the Lennoxville Library’s children’s section at C-268. But adults will have fun with this tale, as well.

Writer Howard Jacobson’s Man Booker-nominated J (2014, in adult fiction) is a quite different beast. But it is nonetheless filled with monsters. It’s beautifully written, and slightly odd, its corners filled with menace. Something terrible has happened – maybe — that has changed the world, but no one must speak of it. (“This is a free country so long as you don’t plan to travel. The past is itself another country.”)

Two strangers meet and attempt to negotiate love.

To say more would ruin this novel. The writing is whip smart, its conceit slow to build, and shocking in its denouement. It is a difficult read, but worth it.

None of the books in this week’s column feature mindlessly happy stories.

Pick up Wayson Choy’s The Jade Peony (1995, in adult fiction), another fascinating book, but much more traditional in style. It’s a triad of tales, each section focussing on a different child in an immigrant Chinese family during the Depression, and into the beginnings of the Second World War.

It brings Vancouver’s Chinatown to life, juxtaposing the ways of older folk with the youngsters who grow up in this new world. A child is reminded she was born a girl and must accept her place: “This is Canada,” I wanted to snap back, “not Old China.”

“You not Canada. You China,” says Grandmother.

And in truth, the child cannot legally be Canadian; she is a “resident alien” under the laws that refused to grant citizenship to Asians. The only thing that saves her, and her family, is that China is an ally during World War II.

Her elders, constantly apart from the mainstream, recall a different time and culture: Grandmother “listened with glee to the resonant slurrrph the old man sounded at the edge of his soupspoon, a sound not encouraged at our table. (Father had taught us to sip our soup slowly, noiselessly, in the Western way.)”

Love and loss are constant companions in this heart-wrenching novel.

An elderly man is reminded of someone he’d admired from afar in the old country:

“Meet her maybe three times in Old China. I never to forget her. Last time I gave her plum blossoms.” Wong-Suk looked far away, became quiet.
“What did she do,” I asked, meaning was she a movie star.
“What she do?” Wong-Suk looked far away. “She spit.” His voice softened. “Throw back at me all the blossoms.”

And still Wong-Suk cannot let her go.

The heart wants what it wants.

– Eleanor Brown, February 13, 2015

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About BiblioLennLibrary

The Lennoxville Library, in Quebec's Eastern Townships, offers free memberships to all residents of Sherbrooke. We have a great selection of books in French and English, plus books on tape and CD, too! Check out our large-print section, our graphic novels... La Biblio Lennoxville se situe dans les Cantons-de-l'Est du Quebec. Les residents de Sherbrooke peuvent devenir membre gratuitement. Nous avons une grande selection de livres en francais et en anglais. Venez donc nous voir! Hours/Heures d'ouverture: Mardi-Tuesday, 10am to 5pm -- 10h a 17h Mercredi et Jeudi -Wednesday and Thursday, 10am to 6pm -- 10h a 18h Vendredi-Friday, 10am to 5pm -- 10h a 17h Samedi-Saturday, 11am to 4pm -- 11h a 16h Pour plus d'info, vous pouvez nous trouver au http://www.bibliolennoxvillelibrary.ca/ Click on the above to get to our website!
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