Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Review: In Love by Alfred Hayes

First published:- 1958
Republished by:-New York Review of Books
Republished on:- July 23rd, 2013
Star rating:-

Love, that misused, overabused idea, the tendrils of which coil around our everyday existence and refuse to loosen their collective tenacious grip. The illusion of which is sold in glittery packages of puce and pink to the masses like Marx's opium in the form of songs, messages and merchandise wrapped up in artifice. A full-fledged day devoted to singing its praises every year and the carefully orchestrated alignment of our feelings with soulless consumerism. 
Too much cynicism? Perhaps.
"Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin."
 - George Herbert

On a sombre wintry Sunday afternoon, while browsing my kindle shelves I tapped the lovely NYRB cover image of 'In Love' which had been lying ignored, buried under a burgeoning heap of newer additions and purchases (Thank you Kris, for your beautiful review which caused me to request this on Netgalley). A few pages into it, and my faith in humanity was restored partially with the realization that not all finer nuances of this emotion have been sacrificed at the altar of the virulently corporatized culture of our times.

There's still poetry in living. There's a strange kind of fulfillment even in grief and disenchantment. There's Alfred Hayes and his pain-soaked hymn to a doomed love affair. (And there are publishing houses like NYRB who are taking the initiative to republish buried works of genius in these distressing times of profit-making frenzy.)
"Now she had passed into another life. She inhabited a world from which I was excluded, and she had left me in an immense empty space."

Narrated by a man in his forties in conversation with a random young woman at a bar, this is essentially a tale serenading the transience of love and its undeniable link with the core of our being. The interplay of feelings, words and gestures that a romantic relationship revolves around, the acute sense of everything else paling in comparison with the object of our affection, the unreality of the extent of our involvement with a person that descends on us once passion wanes - Hayes dissects all these familiar and much talked about aspects of romantic love with a lyrical flair and with the wisdom and emotional depth of an author unwilling to shy away from depicting the entailing bitterness and despondency of heartbreak. 
"...nothing we want ever turns out quite the way we want it, love or ambition or children, and we go from disappointment to disappointment, from hope to denial, from expectation to surrender, as we grow older, thinking or coming to think that what was wrong was the wanting, so intense it hurt us, and believing or coming to believe that hope was our mistake and expectation our error, and that everything the more we want it the more difficult the having it seems to be.."

If not for the thoroughly original handling of a commonplace subject explored ever so often, read this for Hayes' lucid, understated but veritably charming writing style.

Also posted on Goodreads and Amazon.

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1 comment:

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