â€œThere are no happy endings, kid. Just these moments,â€ one character tells another in Robert Cooverâ€™s story â€œMatinÃ©e,â€ an irreverent look at love, time, and cinema. Those moments are what we experience in this handful of love stories, none of which, it seems, have truly happy endings. Thereâ€™s the unforgettable exchange in Annie Proulxâ€™s â€œBrokeback Mountainâ€ (so powerfully re-created onscreen, in Ang Leeâ€™s 2005 film adaptation of the story), in which a ranch hand tells the man heâ€™s loved for years, â€œI wish I knew how to quit you.â€ Or that moment of solace in the face of rejection, at the end of â€œSomeone,â€ by Alice McDermott. Thereâ€™s the declaration of forbidden love, quickly defused by laughter, in Ruth Prawer Jhabvalaâ€™s â€œAphrodisiac,â€ or the moment in Alice Munroâ€™s â€œPassionâ€ when the young protagonist, on an ill-fated drive with her fiancÃ©â€™s brother, has a sudden revelation about love and desire: â€œShe had thought that it was touch. Mouths, tongues, skin, bodies, banging bone on bone. Inflammation. Passion. But that wasnâ€™t what sheâ€™d been working toward at all. She had seen deeper, deeper into him than she could ever have managed if theyâ€™d gone that way.â€ In â€œLove Is Blind and Deaf,â€ Jonathan Safran Foer goes back to the original love story, and the original sin. Perhaps we can take a cue from him this Valentineâ€™s Day and look past the constantly changing narrative of politics to the stories that last.
Read more Love StoriesÂ from The New Yorker fiction archive.