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Fri, Dec. 21st, 2007, 03:34 pm
Reading List 2007 (5/281)

This week’s reading:

Logan’s Run, William F. Nolan
The Green Trap, Ben Bova
Between Time and Terror, ed. Robert Weinberg
Heavenly Date and Other Flirtations, Alexander McCall Smith
Love is a Story, Robert J. Sternberg

Please, people, for the love of god: do not read The Green Trap. It rather nicely displaced Trouble as the worst book I’ve read so far this year. Ben Bova may be able to handle the science part of “science fiction,” but this attempt at fiction is just an embarrassment. Worse, he adds insult to injury with his treatment of the Sexy Industrial Spy Who Sleeps With People For Information And Was Abused As A Child And That’s Why She Acts Like A Whore But She’s Really In Love With Our Hero Despite The Fact That He Has No Personality. His notion of characterization is to make a character Latvian. Oh ho! Latvian people! They’ll save your novel if anything can! The only reason why I wasted two hours reading this piece of tripe is because the science concept is quite clever (engineered bacteria that can produce hydrogen fuel) and I was hoping the book would manage to pull out of its long, agonizing tail-spin. It didn’t. Fortunately, I read fast.

The discovery of the week was another non-fiction book … maybe there’s a pattern here? Love is a Story is something I picked up while futzing around in the Columbia Psychology Library, looking for books on creativity. Sternberg, it seems, has written about nearly every topic under the sun! But this is his take on understanding the psychology of love, and I found it both intelligent and insightful. Best of all, it’s very accessible and not at all academically written (though I’ve been productively link-hunting in the references!).

Sternberg’s notion is that we have stories about what ‘love’ is - that we use those stories to provide the meaning and context of the things that actually happen in our intimate relationships. So, for example, if you believe that love is about “collecting” the right person for your collection, you’ll understand love one way. If you believe it’s about tending and nurturing love like a garden, you’ll act differently. He argues that good relationships are ones where both partners share the same story (or similar stories) of what love is, and where that story is itself well-adapted to the conditions of their lives.

The book lays out twenty-five common stories that have come up in his research, ranging from “the science-fiction story” to “the knitting story” to “the sacrifice story.” He shares the survey items that he used to categorize people’s stories, so you can give yourself lots of fun self-tests if you like that kind of thing. (I do!) He also shares people’s actual stories, though I imagine with names changed, and shows how they illustrate the larger category. While the book doesn’t claim to be all-inclusive, I found it really useful in reflecting on the ideas I have about how love works.

If you sit down and read this book with someone you love, I promise you’ll learn something about the way you love each other. I certainly did!

Until next week, folks, when we find out whether I can read nineteen books in nine days!