Themes of great books are all about love and death.

Woody Allen and the specter of Death
Woody Allen and the specter of Death

I recently wrote a blog quoting Cormac McCarthy, who said that all great books deal with two subjects.


And Death.

I believed it.

This is what I wrote:

You can have as many themes as you want.

You can have as many plots as you want.

You can have as many subplots as you want.

But the story always boils down to a single conflict, the struggle between life.

And death.

I was partly right.

But mostly I was wrong.

The more I think about, the more I realize that the great themes in books are not life.

And death.

They are love.

And death.

Life is a given.

If we weren’t alive, nothing that happens would be important anyway.

But everything we do is for love.

If we did not have some one or some thing to love, life would be worthless.

So what do we love?


And the earth beneath our feet.

A woman.

Or a man.



A child.

Or children.







And we will die to protect those we love and what we love.

Woody Allen, perhaps, said it best.

Of course, he said it from a man’s point of view:

All men fear death.

It’s a natural fear that consumes us all.

We fear death because we feel that we haven’t loved well enough or loved at all, which ultimately are one and the same.

However, when you make love with a truly great woman, one that deserves the utmost respect in this world and one that makes you feel truly powerful, that fear of death completely disappears.

Because when you are sharing your body and heart with a great woman the world fades away.

You two are the only ones in the entire universe.

You conquer what most lesser men have never conquered before, you have conquered a great woman’s heart, the most vulnerable thing she can offer to another.

Death no longer lingers in the mind.

Fear no longer clouds your heart.

Only passion for living, and for loving, become your sole reality.

This is no easy task for it takes insurmountable courage.

But remember this, for that moment when you are making love with a woman of true greatness you will feel immortal.

I believe that love that is true and real creates a respite from death. All cowardice comes from not loving or not loving well, which is the same thing.

And when the man who is brave and true looks death squarely in the face like some rhino hunters I know or Belmonte, who is truly brave, it is because they love with sufficient passion to push death out of their minds.

Until it returns, as it does to all men.

And then you must make really good love again.

Think about it.

I thought about it.

I think he’s right.

We are grateful for life.

We fear death.

It’s only natural.

But what lies in between the two is all that counts.

Love does make the difference.

In our existence.

And in our literature.

Love always has and always will until death comes to steal us away.

The only important things we leave behind are ones we loved.

Love continues even when life leaves holding on to the arm of death.


Please click the book cover image to read more about Caleb Pirtle and his novels. Wicked Little Lies is all about love and death.

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  • Caleb Pirtle

    I’ve read quotes from a lot of great authors. Maybe I need to read more from Woody Allen.

  • Love is the thing that lasts. It validates us. It can be a life-long search. Books help.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      You’re right, Alicia. Books help us remember why we loved and give us reasons to love again.

  • Darlene Jones – Author

    Love is the essence of life and books help us to see that.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      It does indeed.

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