For the New York Public Library, Love is Unhappiness and Death

I must pause in my editing this morning to ask an important question. Are the people at the New York Public Library crazy? Reuters reports that the NYPL has just released a list of its “10 greatest love stories of all time.” Although I completely agree that “Instead of trying to glean wisdom from Britney’s (Spears) latest meltdown,” it’s better to turn to “stories that have stood the test of time,” I must question NYPL’s choices.

  • Wuthering Heights – greatest love story of all time? Perhaps the gloomiest and most sadistic one!
  • Anna Karenina – OMG completely depressing. Ends in regret and death.
  • Romeo and Juliet – Shakespeare, I love ya – but the title characters both die!
  • Dangerous Liaisons – The principal characters end up full of regret, having ruined their lives and thrown away their chance at happiness.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame – Mother sends her own daughter to the gallows. Le Hunchback commits suicide. All hopes of love are foiled.
  • Doctor Zhivago – Mistakes, betrayal, and death.
  • Casablanca – Well, I suppose I agree that this is perhaps the greatest love story on film – but the main peeps don’t get together in this one either.

What gives, NYPL? And don’t even get me started on the fact that Jane Eyre does not make their list.
July 23, 2007 Update
Correspondent D.C. recently read this blog entry and offered her two cents on NYPL’s list.

While I’m with you and prefer a neat, tidy, happily ever after kind of story, I may be able to shed some light on the New York Public Library’s choices:
One, it’s New York: the land of high crime and perpetual psychotherapy.
Two, there is something powerful and nostalgic about thwarted love that grips our very souls. Take Romeo and Juliet, for example, whose love was so immense they could not fathom to be apart in this world and chose union in the afterlife. In the era of divorce and sketchy relationships, this kind of devotion seems to provide an almost admirable contrast. Would it not have been more tragic for them to live and suffer a lifetime of being apart? In my screenwriting class, the instructor mentioned that conflict is what keeps the story going. Sometimes the protagonists do not always meet their goal, but if they are ennobled in the effort, the story can pack a powerful punch.
Perhaps this is what the library was going after. Perhaps I’m just a hopeless romantic. Perhaps I should sign off and get back to work before I get fired before I can quit …

We say: Don’t get back to work, D.C.! Keep sending us your insights …

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