Ever since the 1990s, NECCO has added a few new sayings each year to their iconic line of candy hearts for Valentine's Day. They've taken that to a new level for 2010, and, to quote the NECCO website “For the first time in 145 years, Sweethearts® discarded all its previous phrases and asked the American public to tell us how they express their love.” You can see hearts with the new sayings here.
I was looking over the winners, and while “Tweet Me” (top choice) and “Text Me” (second most popular) didn't do much for me—I may be half geek but I'm also half Luddite—others brought to mind some of my best, most satisfying relationships. My relationships with books. Um, we'll try not to get too deeply into what that says about me and other relationships, thank you very much. Unlike some people I could name, books have always been there for me. From childhood when they helped me escape small town boredom (kickball between the cowpats has its limitations as entertainment once they close camp and send the city kids back home) through adulthood when they let me escape my problems by reading amusingly written stories about people with worse ones (that's not quite as sick as it sounds—don't forget that I read mysteries, and murder or being accused of it trumps most problems). So think about it: “You Rock,” “Soul Mate,” “Me + You”, even “Puppy Love,” “Sweet Love,” and “Love Me.” It's a veritable library of love.
Take Puppy love, yes Puppy Love. You know what I mean... that new book of your dreams by a new author. The one you perk up just thinking about slipping into, with the cover that gleams enticingly at you from the shelves, seeming to offer everything you've ever wanted. The perfect characters, the perfect storyline, the perfect length, even the perfect depth—not much. This is puppy love after all and depth can be overrated.
Sure, eventually the Puppy Love author will fail you. You'll open your eyes a little wider and realize that the sparkle and gleam was all marketing, wondering how you were ever taken in. But then there's Soul Mate out there to help you recover. The comfort read to soothe your troubled soul. Between its covers there is always at least one corner of this universe (well, some universe – a few of my favorites are SF) you can wrap around you like a silken soft blankie to feel that everything's right with the world so long as you have that to hold on to.
Of course silken blankies and soothing words can get a little, well, cloying and stale after a while. Which is why you go looking for You Rock excitement. It can be anything from a book that has you reaching for the keyboard to start trying out some new ideas about web design (I did say half geek) to the one titled The Cookie Sutra: An Ancient Treatise: that Love Shall Never Grow Stale. Nor Crumble. (no, trust me, I am not making that one up. Mind you, I'll never hear anyone say "that's the way the cookie crumbles" in quite the same way...), which has broadened your horizons in ways you never considered possible. The sort of book that has you moaning with pleasure and gasping in shock until the occupant of the next bench in the park pointedly suggests you get a room. Which you do... one with a quality reading lamp you can share, snickering into the pages all the while at that poor unenlightened soul all alone on that bench.
Somewhere in between lies the sweet companionship of the Me + You read—the book that sees you through long flights and rainy days at the beach cottage—or the simple joy of the Sweet Love read. Not so demanding as some perhaps, but rich and satisfying enough to create a moment of uncomplicated happiness, increasingly rare in this world. And there's always another venture into the Cookie Sutra if you need real excitement. Made even more piquant by doing it in public, if you're really daring (me, I blushed when just thinking of it as I passed a bakery with gingerbread men and women in the window).
So I'd like to offer a heartfelt Valentine full of love and thanks to all the books I've read or will read and the people who make them possible: the authors, the publishers, the booksellers, the agents, the publicists, the reviewers... everyone. You've created some of the best and most lasting (sigh) relationships of my life.