I couldn’t write a novel about the history of love because I wouldn’t know where to begin. I wouldn’t know how to transform that abstraction into something tangible. I would find the topic debatable. I understand Nicole Krauss’s urge to do so, and feel that by naming her book The History Of Love—which also doubles as the fictional book that her narrative centers—she is addressing like concerns.
The use of multiple narrators was a paramount factor in accomplishing this herculean task. Try explaining the sea only in terms of lagan. Now jetsam. And flotsam. But put these brethren together and one has a better idea of the sea’s enormity and power. It wouldn’t be a complete picture, but it would be a start.
NK weaves parental, romantic, and friendship love with voices both old and young in such a convincing way that she made me stop and meditate on the different loves in my life. This led me to wondering what my world would be like if I was taught to say, “I love you” the same way I was taught to say, “Thank you.” Would it cheapen it?
Sometimes I go to the grocery store and linger in the aisles just to be near people; writing can be lonely. In this way, I identified with many of the characters. I imagined myself looking at the girl who bags my groceries and telling her, “I love you.” Then I fantasized saying, “I love you” to everyone I know, the dog groomer, the post office attendant, my neighbor, a stranger. I wanted to mean it, not casually, but my imagination could only go so far.
It would be crazy if I went out and really did that, right? But The History Of Love connects strangers through love and the medium is only words. In some weird way it gave me hope that humanity could rewrite its history and learn from our mistakes because not only do we have multiple types of love that all hinge on each other, but we also have multiple ways of expressing this love.
At this point I should mention that while reading this story, half way through I got confused. My confusion stemmed from who the original author of fictional book The History Of Love was, and instead of trusting NK, I went over to Wikipedia. The ending was spoiled, but I came across a lesson I already knew—love is confusing and our mediums of expressing it aren’t perfect. And yet. We love.
NK’s larger message, for me, was learning how to decipher what our mediums don’t say. That space between words, that pause between touches, and how in its own way absence of love can be love—which is something I’ll think about the next time I’m in the grocery store, the post office, the dry cleaners. It all reminds me of this song- (click here).
I don’t believe there is a beginning or an end to true love, so I couldn’t write the history of love. Semantics.
And yet. I love.