Review on: Love Stories: Literature’s Great Romances @ The Wheeler Cetre

Love Stories: Literature’s Great Romances at the Wheeler Centre 7th July

“I love you as certain dark things are loved, secretly, between the shadow and the soul.”-Pablo Neruda. Printed on small business-like card sitting on my seat at the Wheeler Centre

What is love in literature? Is this real love or merely an infatuation? What are the distinctive differences between these two things? How does romantic literature differ from our everyday reality? What makes great heart-throbbing romantic characters?

At a sold-out event for a themed Love and Lust week at the Wheeler Centre three panellists from various writing backgrounds bounced off one another to discuss what importance love and romantic literature meant to them. I took my Mum and Dad along who got very excited when books they had read were mentioned. “Oooh! Yes the French lieutenants wife!”

The panellist consisted of novelist and writer for the Age Kate Holden, poet and playwright Craig Sherborne, novelist Steven Carroll and writer and director Lorin Clarke.
Although this was a good mix of people I think that the discussion was not always spilt equally some people were prone to ramble a bit more than others, I’m looking at you Craig! Ahh Craig who kept going-on and on about how very little literature and poetry contains a certain Whoosh factor, that is the feeling of falling in love, the whoosh! Whoosh!

There was also a bit too much self-promotion for Lorin Clarke who was releasing a new film very soon.. Although it was interesting to get an inside peek into the creation of a rom-com with writing formulas and such I still wondered what this had to do with literature’s great romances…..

It was Kate Holden who seemed to piece the discussion together with interesting insights and personal influences in her life. The book Iris, a memoir on Iris Murdoch, Kate mentioned as a book which changed her life, transforming her outlook on what qualities in a relationship she wanted. As Iris suffered from Alzheimer’s disease it was her husband’s immense “kindness” that Kate was overwhelmed with, “maybe I will stop falling for bad boys!” Kate laughed.

And wasn’t that what it was about? How romantic literature influenced and inspired us? I was a little disappointed that Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte and the likes were not mentioned but perhaps the panel saw this as too obvious? Corn-coloured hair was briefly mentioned and the popping open of buttons in Victorian times. The problem was that there was too much material to cover in only an hour, many hours could be spent trying to define what love and romance is for instance. The discussion scratched the surface and I think that although the panel was a very diverse lot of writers there needed to be different age groups as well.

A younger generation would see the likes of Twilight as a great romance although a relatively modern story has the customs and morals of 19th century literature, which may have to do with Stephanie Meyer’s degree in literature of course.. The panellist touched on contemporary Australian writers although completely wrote them off as true love stories because they were apparently “too connected with the land” which seemed to bore Craig Sherborne. It was interesting that Craig found Lolita by Nabokov as the most honest love story he had ever written although personally when I read the book I felt the whole thing was a veil of Humbert’s infatuation, all one-sided with no real connection with Lolita or her true feelings at all.

I really enjoyed the discussion, it was the second event I had been to at The Wheeler Centre and it was again, impressive. The writing community in Melbourne is so strong that it never ceases to amaze me. Its always good to see different opinions and see how literature can affect people so strongly. There’s always things to be inspired by and always things to go to.

What is your favourite love story? And why?

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Filed under life, literature, love, melbourne, poetry, review, writing

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