I am of an age where I should have a measured and mature response to Valentine's Day. I don't.
But here to support me and countless others who are tired of aggressively ignoring the one day that can get under your nerves like no other is, of course, our grand literary tradition. Books, that bastion of humanity for every single vice, virtue, and mostly vice that make us hubris homo sapiens.
The Bitter Old Lady Bookclub (an imaginary but all-inclusive reading group that I invented to get me through the month) recommends these Top 3 Admit How Much You Hate This Day Reads, starting from the most vitriolic:
1) Love Sucks by Daria Summers, illustrated by Emma Munger Starting off with a punch, this delightful book bares all its teeth against the thorny side of that fuzzy feeling. It looks like a guilty pleasure, minus the guilt. When your #mood is the equivalent of Adam Sandler singing "Love Stinks" but you want to say it a bit more eloquently, enter quotes from philosophers, literary titans, and the cynical superstars of the ages. Bonus: Emma Munger adds Americana tattoo-style illustrations that will make you sprint to the nearest parlor to get them inked on you. "But it'll permanently mark me, and won't it fade after a few years?" JUST LIKE LOVE.
2) How to Build a Girl by Cailtin Moran If you'd still like to try for that "measured and mature" thing I mentioned earlier, Caitlin Moran's novel is your February read. How to Build a Girl has some love (and some failure at love) in its pages, but looked at through the scope of how these things build us. It's a perfect homage to the immense impact of these feelings on our lives, but also how much else there is in our world. It's also a perfect balance between your naughty sense of humor and your underappreciated sagacity. Observe:
"Since I met you, I feel like I can see the operating system of the world - and it is unrequited love. That is why everyone's doing everything. Every book, opera house, moon shot, and manifesto is here because someone, somewhere, lit up silent when someone else came into the room, and then quietly burned when they didn't notice them. 'On the foundation of the billion kisses we never had, I built you this opera house, baby. I shot the president because I didn't know what to say to you. I hoped you'd notice. I hoped you'd notice me. We turn our unsaid things into our life's work. 'Loving you is the dirty fuel that powered me during my industrial era. You've got to have a hobby - and mine is you. Mine is being in love with you. It was never the sun coming up in the morning that lit up the room. It was me, quietly flaring, when you said, 'One more?'"
*sniff* Now that's a tattoo, right there.
3) The End of the Affair by Graham Greene The "unrequited love" market aims most of its artillery at women, but Graham Greene's novel is written from the POV of the man who was abruptly and inexplicably left by his married lover, and sets out on a joint quest with her (unaware) husband to search for this mysterious third interloper. The End of the Affair takes all the belittled pain and pettiness of a breakup and elevates it to the serious treatment of a Great Literary Novel About Humanity. If what you really need this month is for someone to take you seriously, damnit, Greene's novel is yours.
So buckle up and power through this cold and lonely month, and remember you're not alone: there's a book out there for you. And they make the best dates.
- KATELYNNE SHIMKUS, First of her Name, the Mother of Coffee (always Unburnt), Birthday Maven, Protector of the Bookstore and Warden of Poetry. Also loves puppies.