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Marilyn Yalom - How the French Invented Love: Nine Hundred Years of Passion and Romance http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/how-the-french-invented-love-marilyn-yalom/1110913773?ean=9780062048318 96 kbps, Unabridged, Read by Christine Williams Overview Oh, how the French love love! For hundreds of years, they have championed themselves as guides to the art de l'amour through their literature, paintings, songs, and cinema. A French man or woman without amorous desire is considered defective, like someone missing the sense of smell or taste. Now revered scholar Marilyn Yalom intimately examines the tenets of this culture's enduring gospel of romance. Basing her delightfully erudite findings on her extensive readings of French literature, as well as memories of her personal experiences in la belle France, Yalom explores the many nuances of love as it has evolved over the centuries, from the Middle Ages to the present. Following along, step-by-step, on her romance-tinged literary detective hunt, the reader discovers how the French invented love, how they have kept it vibrant for more than nine centuries, what is unique in the French love experience, and what is universal. Publishers Weekly In this enchanting tour of French literature—from Abélard and Héloïse in the 12th century to Marguerite Duras in the 20th and Philippe Sollers in the 21st—Yalom attempts to unravel the mystery of how the French manage their romances, marriages, affairs, and obsession with love and sex. Former professor of French, current senior scholar at Stanford’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research, avowed feminist, confessed Proustian, admitted Simone de Beauvoir groupie, the erudite and charming Yalom is the perfect companion. Yalom (A History of the Wife) argues that it’s not only gender-specific traits and roles that are socially constructed, but love, too. For example, Les liaisons dangereuses (the most wickedly erotic book ever written, in Yalom’s opinion) is still on the list of required reading in French high schools. Her passion for French literature is palpable, and the analytical connections that she draws to the love lives of its writers (gay, straight, or just plain neurotic) are edifying and great fun to read. At the heart of this delicious book is Yalom the reader, whose fascination with the French way of love and pleasure in sharing her enthusiasms is highly contagious. Readers will want to run to the library and stay there for a year, reading everything she deconstructs Kirkus Reviews Cultural historian Yalom (Birth of the Chess Queen, 2004, etc.) explicates Gallic attitudes toward the not-always-so-tender passion. Tracing l'amour à la française "from the emergence of romance in the twelfth century until our own era," the author employs an enjoyably downright style, blending in her own experiences in France over the course of 60 years as well as the personal stories of French friends. She begins with the troubadour poetry that established the idealized conventions of courtly love in medieval France, then moves on to the more cynical trope of gallant love, which emphasized physical passion. The distinction between a true emotional bond and mere lust runs through all of French literature, but they are not necessarily in conflict; Yalom notes the culture's forthright acceptance of sexual pleasure, so much more problematic for puritanical Anglo-Saxons. The famous union of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, who maintained an "essential" love while enjoying "contingent" loves with others, is a 20th-century example of the pragmatic French acknowledgment that marriage and passion don't always go hand in hand. Yet Yalom finds many examples of French men and women (but mostly women) overwhelmed by all-consuming ardor, from Racine's Phèdre to the "irresistible force that penetrates through the skin, regardless of its color," in Marguerite Duras' novel, The Lover. Yalom also covers homosexual love in the works of Proust, Gide and Colette, and she devotes a chapter to the "yearning for the mother" that fueled some decidedly sexual affairs between young men and older women in the novels of Stendhal, Balzac and others. Yalom's prose occasionally seems a bit breathless for an octogenarian author, but her first-person confidences give this an engagingly informal tone that matches the relatively light treatment of its subject.
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