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What authors read on Valentine's Day

February 8, 2005



We asked a bouquet of writers to tell us about the book they consider most romantic.

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Garrison Keillor is the host of "A Prairie Home Companion" and the author, most recently, of "Homegrown Democrat."

The Sonnets of William Shakespeare. Not buried in an anthology, as you found them back in ninth grade, but in a handsome, slim hardbound edition. Love can seem so elusive and evanescent that one doubts its reality; then it's good to encounter the poet who intended his to endure, 14 lines at a time, and not change but be a star to every wand'ring bark.

Anita Shreve is the author of many romantic novels, most recently, "Light on Snow."

I like my romances rigorous, with literary muscle. For that reason, I would choose "The Transit of Venus," by Shirley Hazzard. It is an exquisite tale of doomed love set within an absolutely ingenious plot. Written in heartbreakingly beautiful prose - each paragraph containing an entire universe - "Transit" is my favorite novel of all time.

Wally Lamb is the author of "I Know This Much Is True" and "She's Come Undone."

I've always been partial to Daphne du Maurier's "Rebecca": the unlikely pairing of dashing deWinter and his insecure second wife, the mansion torched as an act of love and exorcism. More recently, I've been moved by Ron McLarty's "The Memory of Running." The narrative follows a fat guy on a bicycle, but at the heart of this novel is a poignant love story, eccentric and sweet.

H.W. Brands 's most recent work of history is "Lone Star Nation."

My favorite is Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "Love in the Time of Cholera." Love is a state of altered consciousness, and no one writes better about altered states. The dreamy, the pedestrian, the bizarre mingle here in intimate confusion. And those almonds....

Kevin Boyle won a National Book Award in 2004 for "Arc of Justice."

A.S. Byatt's "Possession" is not one but two love stories, intertwined with literature, poetry, and research amid musty stacks of 19th-century documents. What more could a professor of history ask for in a novel? My wife and I read it to each other, luxuriating in Byatt's beautiful prose and brilliant play of ideas. Now that's romantic.

Kent Meyers 's most recent novel is "The Work of Wolves."

If "A Midsummer Night's Dream" doesn't count as a book, I'll nominate David James Duncan's "The River Why." It will make you fall in love, either again or for the first time. It's about a river, romantic in itself, and a fisherman who falls in love with a fisherwoman, and they both get to keep fishing even after they fall in love. The woman's name is Eddy, like the motion of a stream around a rock, and the book contains this unforgettable line, when the narrator comes back to his cabin and discovers the girl of his dreams there: "It was Eddy, it was Eddy, it was Eddy, alone in my house, waiting for me."

Steve Almond celebrated the world of sweets in "Candyfreak," published last year.

"Stoner," by John Williams, contains what is no doubt my favorite literary romance of all time. William Stoner is well into his 40s, and mired in an unhappy marriage, when he meets Katherine, another shy professor of literature. The affair that ensues is described with a beauty so fierce that it takes my breath away each time I read it. The chapters devoted to this romance are both terribly sexy and profoundly wise.

John Griesemer 's debut novel, "Signal & Noise" was among the Monitor's top five recommendations for 2003.

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