A valentine’s bouquet from much-practiced anthologist Henderson (Pushcart Prize XLII, 2017, etc.) and his spouse, novelist Chipps.
A follow-on of sorts to the duo’s edited volume Love Stories for the Rest of Us (1994), this collection carries a title and subtitle that speak of resistance and the redeeming power of love to see us through hard times; in their too-brief introduction, the editors call the book “both a mirror of and an antidote for the passions of our raucous and dangerous century.” Not all the pieces live up to that promise, and every century known to history has been dangerous and in need of healing love, but no matter. Wisely, the collection opens with Donald Hall, who delivers a light and loving memoir of life with Jane Kenyon, the poet to whom he was married for 23 years until her untimely death at the age of 47. “If anyone had asked us, ‘Which year was the best, of your lives together?’ we could have agreed on an answer: ‘the one we remember least.’" There’s profound depth and maturity in Hall’s elaboration, just as there is in his declaration, “Third things are essential to marriages, objects or practices or habits or arts or institutions or games or human beings that provide a site of joint rapture or contentment.” Indeed. There is other wisdom to be had in this collection of stories and essays, some less genteel (as when, in Charles Johnson’s story “The Weave,” a young man proposes to his girlfriend as they are taking their “first steps toward that American monastery called prison”), many connecting love with literal matters of life and death: “Until my husband’s hand slipped from mine, until his breath failed,” writes Pamela Painter with aching lyricism, “on that last evening I sailed precariously in two different seas, astride two listing vessels….”
The occasional death—or dead dog, even—notwithstanding, heart-tugging testimonials to the power of love.