On one hand, discussing a book like The History of Love is easy because it’s so multi-layered that it offers readers multiple points of entry. Conversely, a book this rich sometimes makes it difficult to know just how and where to dig in. (It’s kind of like facing the Sunday brunch at 2021. Do I start with an omelet or go directly to the sticky buns?)
With this smorgasbord paradox in mind, The Artist’s Bookshelf offers the following guide which we hope to utilize at our upcoming exploration of The History of Love:
POINTS TO PONDER
1) What’s in a name? It’s often been said that a book’s title serves as a lens through which viewers decipher any given literary work. Why did author Nicole Krauss choose to give the book this particular title? Why did she give it the same title as the title of the fictional book within the novel?
2) Deep Thoughts! The book is peppered with powerful philosophical postulates that the author manages to make surprisingly palatable without ever dumbing down. Example:
“ Having begun to feel, people’s desire to feel grew. They wanted to feel more, feel deeper, despite how much it sometimes hurt. People became addicted to feeling. They struggled to uncover new emotions. It’s possible that this is how art was born.” —The History of Love, p. 107
3) Connect the dots. How might the above quote be applied to the Kai Althoff installation, currently on view at the Walker, as part of the Heart of Darkness exhibition?
4) Emotion vs. Sentiment. The ending of the novel proves to be tremendously powerful, and quite unexpectedly emotional. How does the tone differ from the standard sentimentality so prevalent in today’s pop lit?
5) Multiple P.OV. The author utilizes a number of narrative voices in spinning this yarn. Why did she choose this strategy? What is the ultimate cumulative effect?