Published by Free Press
Publication date: January 3rd 2012
Genres: Non-fiction, self-help
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, two writers with a love for literature take a light-hearted look at relationships based on some of the world’s greatest works of fiction, in Much Ado About Loving. Maura Kelly has written a daily dating blog for Marie Claire and has written for Glamour, Rolling Stone, and Slate. Jack Murnighan has a Ph.D. in medieval and renaissance literature and has written several books on the classics for modern audiences. He has appeared on NPR and written for Esquire on the topic of sexuality and relationships.
The pair covers a number of vital subjects in the romantic world from “Signs You Should Abandon Ship” to “The Seduction Process”. In the section on “Types to Watch Out For” Gatsby’s single-minded pursuit of and love for Daisy is seen by today’s standards as stalkerish. It is also concluded that just because a man treats you nicely but is a condescending jerk to everyone else means he probably really is a jerk and you should beware. To whom am I referring? One of the great romantic heroes of all times: Darcy (gasp!). For the ladies, Jane Eyre is a foolish prig who should have simply accepted Rochester’s offer of escape with him to a life far away. To Kelly’s mind:
When and if you’re lucky enough to find true love, don’t muck it up with mindless adherence to convention. Throw away that list of requirements. Maybe you never thought you could spend the rest of your life with a guy who’s divorced or has kids or has an ex who’s foaming at the mouth—but if he makes you feel more blissful than you ever imagined possible, please go for it.
Of Murnighan, Natasha from War and Peace represents a love and zeal for life that most women would be wise to emulate. When she eats enthusiastically at a peasant banquet he makes this point:
And can I say in passing that when a woman has no dietary restrictions, that’s fantastic. It pretty much signals to me that she is game for things in general, whereas the more things a woman won’t eat, the more I sense she’s going to restrict herself in other domains as well…
While their attitude is light, much of what Kelly and Murnighan are conveying is on the mark. But beyond witty chapter titles (“Jane Erred”, “Moby Dickheads”, and “Coward’s End) and humorous writing there is an in-depth knowledge of the works discussed that keeps the book well away from the dreary plethora of relationship self-help books out there. Instead, there is the opportunity to not only learn a bit more about dating but also to get a cogent synopsis of some of the works they’re discussing. And really, isn’t that better than having to read War and Peace? Trust me it is. Much Ado About Loving is for anyone who loves to read and is looking for love and may be one of the more enjoyable ways to learn about and understand relationships, the opposite sex, and what not to do.