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Posted: Thursday February 12, 2015
Literary Love: A Talonbooks Valentine’s Day List

A certain holiday whose focal point is romantic love will be celebrated this weekend. Whether or not you go in for flowers, chocolates, and candlelit dinners, we know your love for the lexical is long-lasting. Today on Meta-Talon we highlight ten Talonbooks that marry touching love stories with the power and beauty of the written word.

Each of the books on this list begins with or is somehow focused on a romantic relationship, but in each that relationship is not an end in itself; romance serves as a springboard to the real questions posed by these books. Can love bloom and live in a tensely multifaith, multicultural social space? How can a gay man make room in his life for his lover’s young child? How does a married woman learn to accept, perhaps too late, her homosexuality? How can a woman, the product of revolutionary times, be comfortable in a sexually passionate but socially staid relationship? And can two young, jaded kids make it together in the big city?

We invite you to celebrate Valentine’s Day with us – by reading!

Blue Box by Carmen Aguirre

Which is the stronger love: an ardent affair with a TV star or this beautiful woman’s passionate love for a revolution that strove to change an entire nation? Emphasizing the tensions between these two modalities of loving, Aguirre’s monologue intercuts recollections of events that, although they are disconnected in time and space, together comprise two “core stories” that define her, and which she is challenged to reconcile. Blue Box is a sexy, fast-paced, and darkly comic follow-up to Aguirre’s acclaimed autobiography, Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter.

The Heart Laid Bare by Michel Tremblay (translated by Sheila Fischman)

Jean-Marc has fallen in love. The object of his affection is Mathieu, a young actor working as a salesman at Eaton’s while waiting for his big break. As a dowry to their new relationship, Mathieu brings Sébastien, his son. Jean-Marc, a fusty academic, is not sure about being able to make room in his life for this four-year-old boy. While daring, for some even shocking when it first appeared in the 1980s, this story has, like Tremblay’s entire ouevre, stood the test of time and revealed itself to be a work of both enduring and prophetic vision.

Peacock Blue: The Collected Poems of Phyllis Webb

Of course we must include some poetry on such a list as this. While not centred on a romantic relationship, this collection of Webb’s poems over fifty years certainly addresses love, its peaks and perils. Peacock Blue compiles in a single volume all of Webb’s published, unpublished, and uncollected works from a writing career that spanned fifty years. It offers readers the opportunity to relish the arc of Webb’s entire poetic oeuvre. The concluding section contains almost fifty poems previously uncollected, some of which have never been published before. It is full of brilliant but forgotten poems and poetic surprises.

Desert of the Heart by Jane Rule

Evelyn Hall is a literature professor who travels to Reno, Nevada in the summer of 1958 in order to obtain a divorce and thus put an end to her disastrous sixteen-year marriage. During her six-week stay at a boarding house (a residency requirement) Evelyn meets Ann Childs. Ann is most alluring in her representation of freedom to Evelyn, from her innate artistic prowess to her unconventional liaisons amid the smoky nocturnal backdrop of casino life. And once these women have found the promise of a significant relationship, Rule’s rather open-ended question is whether or not it can survive the toxic atmosphere, not simply of an unruly gambling town, but of the past sorrows and hardships each of the characters is attempting to put behind them.

Paradise Garden by Lucia Frangione

The McKinnons live in one side of their ancestral property, while the other has been sold to an immigrant family recently arrived from Turkey. The two families share – with difficulty – the overgrown yard. The heirs apparent to both families, Day McKinnon and Leyla Zeki, fancy themselves to be sophisticated citizens of the world, tolerating with thinly disguised amusement their ancestors’ “outdated” formalities and rituals. Abandoning their families for their careers, they are reunited years later having discovered that love is not just something that happens to us, but something that we must build by hand in the wilderness of our lives.

Some Night My Prince Will Come by Michel Tremblay (translated by Sheila Fischman)

An evening at the opera spills out onto the street and into an odyssey through Montreal by night. The narrator, both innocent and cynical, rushes headlong down what appears to be the road to ruin – or perhaps merely to the loss of his virginity. This is an urban metaphor for the classic story of the shrewd country boy bedazzled and led astray by the bright lights of the big city. Will our hero find love and pleasure after all? This evocative account of his adventure is stamped with the ironic and the affectionate wit and humour that characterize all of Michel Tremblay’s novels and memoirs.

Miss Take by Rejéan Ducharme (translated by Will Browning)

Sixteen-year-old Miles has run away from home, inviting his childhood companion, the fourteen-year-old Inuit orphan Chateaugué, to join him in a rented flat opposite Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours in Montreal. To escape the boredom that history seems to have decreed shall be re-enacted endlessly by all grown-ups, Miles and Chateaugué enter into a suicide pact to preserve their childhood freedom and purity from the debasement of the adult roles pre-ordained for them. But, after a first bout with drunkenness and an encounter with an older woman – after having stepped out of their world of childhood innocence – can Miles return to Chateaugué and consummate their vows, or is this brush with experience irrevocable?

Taking My Life by Jane Rule

Young Jane discovers physical desire for the older Ann, only to be refused on the basis of social impropriety, sending the teenage girl into expression on paper and into the world of writing. Deeply moving and elegantly witty, Taking My Life probes in emotional and intellectual terms the larger philosophical questions that were to preoccupy Rule throughout her literary career, and showcases the origins and contexts that gave shape to Rule’s rich intellectual life.

Mambo Italiano by Steve Galluccio

Angelo has told his very traditionally Italian immigrant parents, Maria and Gino, that he is gay. Hurt, betrayed and mortified by Angelo’s coming out, his lover Nino is not unprepared for his widowed Italian mother Lina’s reaction—a full-on operatic barrage of melodrama and hysterical excess so profound it gives even Angelo’s shocked parents pause for second thoughts and prompts a hilarious and touching re-examination of their own outraged response to their son. Mambo Italiano achieves its overwhelming power through a perfect balance of fast-paced comedy and poignant drama.

Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand (translated by John Murrell)

Shall we end with a classic? Yes. Not since 1938 has there been a more readable or stageable prose translation of this favourite. With a rich tapestry of gallant soldiers, starving poets, musketeers, marquises, and bluestockings, Cyrano de Bergerac moves along with a fast-paced plot and a cast of delightful major and minor characters. At its heart is the chivalrous and intelligent Cyrano, masterful soldier, accomplished poet, ferocious orator, chivalrous lover … and the possessor of an extraordinary nasal appendage!