A whispery valentine to love, torn here and there by passage through tangles and briars.
“Love is thrilling,” says Lowe (Wild Ride, 1995, etc.), remembering Cole Porter’s song “Hang on to your hat, scream if you must, enjoy the ride.” The essays here come like quick kisses, though none the less memorable for that. We start with the mouth, “its first prayer the utterance of mama,” before the old switcheroo, the story of the Fall, of I and Its Fulfillment. There is the sensation of plunging into passion: “Fingers, lips, tongue . . . yes, it’s true, these are the simple implements I bring to bed, the old-fashioned tools of my trade”—allowing her to know the “smell and humidity of her exhalations,” which “signaled that I had arrived at the threshold of a new country.” Of course, that country might also give rise to the occasion when Lowe and her lover Rose “would display our fangs to each other in mortal scare.” Roses, apples, and anatomy are melded into the essays—ingress and egress, the tactile and symbolic—the result being an inundation in the myth of ourselves (little egotistical brats), the present moment doomed and exquisite: “start your pyre and throw yourself upon it.” Like Lowe’s mother, in whose faux martyrdom could be detected an edge frayed by circumstance and obligation, but also the lodestar of affection and devotion; or like her Irish neighbors, so full of furious gibes and passionate grips. Or the role of food: “What happens to love when we no longer bring curiosity, imagination, effort, even drudgery to the task of feeding ourselves?” Yet, “we eat not only to fuel ourselves, but to be nourished by connection.”
Looking love square in the eye, with all its messes and asymmetries, isn’t easy, Lowe cautions; “the sublime can be at odds with survival, safety, commonsense—yet there we go again.”