By Paul Smart
Here in the Hudson Valley, we chalk February’s focus on all things l’amour to the cold. What better way to warm oneself than with another, or braving chill winds with chivalric dreams. Or at least reading of love, huddled under covers or by a warm fire.
We’ve got a strong tradition of books to draw from for the latter pursuits, all written right here. Remember, though, that our region’s literary tradition hasn’t mirrored the romance of the Hudson River School of Painters, or the lushness of so many recent visual artists’ acceptance of nature into their personal work. From Irving and Cooper through Edith Wharton and a flurry of Vassar grads to Gail Godwin, James Lasdun and Lydia Davis, our novelists and poets tend to the melancholic, dysfunctional and/or yearning.
Of course, there’s long been realization that spurned love, and the pursuit of anything impossible, is one of the golden keys to true art. Think of the beautiful ache in Wharton’s work, or Godwin’s mature heartbreak. Just don’t forget the brilliance that rises when one can step back and observe the humanity in every kind of love. Or the depths in a single poem.
Those wishing to combine a bit of the active with the usually solitary act of reading this month, while delving even deeper into the world of loving, should make their way to Kingston’s Rough Draft Bar & Books for Love and Heartbreak: An Evening of Alt-Valentine’s Day Readings on Sunday, February 10 for a room full of novelists, memoirists and non-fiction writers exploring all aspects of what the great filmmaker Preston Sturges once labeled “Topic A.”
Readers will include Jana Martin, author of Russian Lover and Other Stories and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes among many works; Robert Burke Warren, whose novel, Perfectly Broken, was published in 2015; Beverly Donofrio, whose best-selling memoirs have included Riding in Cars with Boys, which was made into a popular movie; screenwriter, playwright and novelist Nina Shengold; and journalist/professor Lisa Phillips, whose Unrequited: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Romantic Obsession is considered a modern classic.
Speaking about her book, and specialty as it were, Philips basically summed up the entire field for us a few years back when she noted how, “Rejection and yearning, as awful as they are, can be inspiring—you’ve got to do something to fill that space. In my book I discuss research that shows that feeling socially rejected can spur creativity. Also what happens in our brain when we seek creative satisfaction is somewhat similar to what happens when we seek satisfaction in love.”
In that same talk, Phillips also got at that special quality involved in all Hudson Valley writing when she added that, “I don’t think I will ever fully understand the coexistence of the persistence of the drive to love and the persistence of the human capacity to hurt.”
Ah, yes. Warming, but real.
The reading takes place February 10 from 5-7pm at Rough Draft Bar & Books at 82 John Street in Kingston, NY. For more information email email@example.com.