All Stories are Love Stories?

Posted: January 18, 2013 in Uncategorized
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BY: Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

One of my favorite books, Eureka Street by Robert McLiam Wilson, opens with this line: “All stories are love stories.”

Image I read Eureka Street for the first time about ten years ago for an undergrad class. The book is brilliant, stirring, and hilarious. Set during the 1990s, it’s about two natives of Belfast, Ireland who deal with, among many things, their love lives, an absurd get-rich-quick scheme, and the ongoing war and unrest in their city.

 For as much as I love the book, it has been the first line that stuck with me more than anything over the years. In fact, of all the books and stories I’ve read, that may be the first line I remember more than any other. And the reason why I’ve remembered it is simple:

 For ten years, I’ve been asking myself if that line is true.  

 At first glance, the answer seems to be no. We sometimes use the term “love story” generically for romantic stories about two people falling in love, such as Romeo & Juliet or The Notebook. With that definition of love story, lots of stories are not love stories.

 However, romantic love is just one form of love. One of my favorite love stories is the film Love Actually, which notes at the beginning that “love actually is all around.” And it really is. There is familial love, occupational love, religious love, patriotism, and more. All throughout our days we can find examples of love that have nothing to do with hugs, kisses or Rachel McAdams.

 Still, it may seem like all stories can’t be love stories, because love is seen as “good,” while not all stories – or all things in the world – are good. That is the bleak, unfortunate kicker to this idea of all stories being love stories: love isn’t always expressed in a beautiful, productive, positive way; love can provoke selfishness, betrayal, pain, destruction.

 Taking it a step further, during my years of pondering this line I got hung up on all the bad in our world. Pick a terrible event, something like what happened in 2012 in Aurora, Colorado or in Newtown, Connecticut. How can tragedies of that magnitude ever be “love stories”? Even in Eureka Street, one chapter deals with a bombing in the fighting between Catholics and Protestants in Belfast. People die. It’s tragic. It’s ugly. How can that be a love story?

 Yet it is, because this blatantly obvious realization finally hit me: sometimes a love story is not about love; it’s about the absence of love.

 And sometimes the absence of love creates a singularity of pain that explodes like the big bang. But when that happens, that’s when love comes back to respond to all of the hurt. We see it in every tragedy: the courage, the selflessness, the humanity that comes out in response. Thus, even the worst stories are about love. 

 It’s been ten years now that I’ve been thinking about this line and it comes back to me regularly whenever I read a new book, see a new movie, watch or read the news. I tie that line to a chair in a dark room under a single, swinging light bulb and interrogate it until it weeps that it’s totally untrue. But it never works, because Robert McLiam Wilson was right:

 All stories are love stories. 

  1. Jane Ungari says:

    Wow. Magnificent and thoughtful.

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