Are all good books about love?



Jimmy Webb
Jimmy Webb












Last night, my wife and I attended a one man show performed by the brilliant songwriter, Jimmy Webb.  For those of you who don’t recognize the name, I would tell you that he wrote, among others, ” By the Time I get To Phoenix,” “Galveston,”  “MacArthur Park,”  “If These Old Walls Could Speak,”  “Didn’t We?,”  “The Worst That Could Happen” and “Wichita Lineman.” He is also a  pianist extraordinaire and a vocalist with a unique style.

I have known his songs since the beginning.

As I thought about the common thread that runs through his creations, I found myself coming back to one theme.

They are all about love.  Love gone wrong, love gone right, love that might have been but never was, love that was but is no more, love that abides forever, even if tested.

And this made me think about the best novels I have ever read.

Take To Kill a Mockingbird.  Atticus is a man who has lost his wife too young and now is doubly devoted to his daughter Scout.  He loves the law because in it he sees a path to justice. He loves his fellow man regardless of the color of his skin.

Or take Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms.  It is a tragic story, one in which we know things cannot turn out well for the two star-crossed lovers.  But we still yearn to see them defy the odds, to swim against the current of the world’s cruel stream.

Or take William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice.  In the horrible aftermath of the Holocaust, we find a woman haunted by the loss of her children who takes refuge in the arms of delusion as she attempts to hold her demons at bay.

Take Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, a book about the paralyzing power of censorship told as a love story between the fireman and a young innocent.

Or take any of Nicholas Sparks’s books that go at the subject of love more directly and mine romance for all its worth.

If you prefer a more spiritual vibe, then consider faith based books where the underpinning of the story is a person’s love of God or God’s love of him.  The Shack by William P. Young, a phenomenally popular book, combined a father’s loss of his beloved child to an unspeakable horror with these spiritual elements.

So maybe the truth is that the story is less important than the theme, if the theme is love.

A once heard a man ask the question: Do we ever tire of hearing someone tell us they love us?

I can’t imagine anyone who would answer in the affirmative.

So why should books be any different?

What do you think?  Do you prefer to read books about love?  Is it important that love enter the story somewhere?


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  • Yes, I do believe all books are about love, because love takes many forms. There’s erotic love between people, platonic love between friends, love between parent and child, and even self-love. Any of these alone could drive a story since they are the foundation for what drives human beings too! 🙂

    • Jade, I agree. In English, we have to use “love” to convey a whole raft of human experience. But as you point out, The ancient Greeks were way ahead of us. They had eros, agape and phileo: three words that conveyed very different notions or facets about love. Regardless, love is such a fundamental human concept that we ignore it at our own peril. Thanks for taking the time to comment. SW

  • If book aren’t about love, they should be. And an occasional gun doesn’t hurt any.

  • writinggroove

    I think you’re right Stephen – all good books are about love of something or someone. I also think most of us believe that love is the one thing that will save us when all else fails – the great redemption. Good question.

    • I guess if what we right about isn’t important enough to rise to the level of love we are just spinning our wheels. Thanks for the comments. SW

  • I won’t reiterate what others have already said. Just chiming in to say I agree, and I really like the examples you gave, Stephen. The choices do illustrate the point that not all love is romantic love.

  • I think in human beings there is an underlying dynamic that pushes and pulls such that our resulting actions continually reflect that dynamic force. We refer to that dynamic as love, so yes love is as much a part of us as our very breath.

  • Bert Carson

    We spent an hour watching and listening to Jimmy Webb on youtube thanks to your blog – In fact, I’ll mention Jimmy in a blog I’m posting tomorrow – of course your blog was about love, not Jimmy Webb, but then, isn’t everything about love, or a lack thereof?

  • I agree that all stories are ultimately about love. The desire to be loved drives everything in fiction and life. Your post made me take another look at a similar post I wrote on my blog Writing thrillers, I sometimes get so caught up in the plot, that I need to remind myself it’s emotion that drives the plot forward.

  • Pingback: Jimmy, Buddy, and Stephen - Bert Carson | Bert Carson()

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