Review by Kacy Muir
Imagine some of the most notable literary minds in a room together. No matter their time or works, they sit in a circle connected by one central theme — love. Now, add well-articulated literary criticism, satire and personal exploration into romantic love and you have yourself a book. That book is Much Ado About Loving: What Our Favorite Novels Can Teach You About Date Expectations, Not-So-Great Gatsbys, and Love in the Time of Internet Personals by Jack Murnighan and Maura Kelly (Free Press, 2012).
The work, while tongue-in-cheek, focuses on the tragic romances, not-so-great expectations and unfortunately, lonely hearts of famous literary characters dissected in English courses and dissertations around the globe. As Shakespeare has taught us, love is full of disappointment both small and large: “This is the very ecstasy of love / Whose violent property foredoes itself, / And leads the will to desperate undertakings.” Alas, Shakespeare also wrote comedies, something Murnighan and Kelly have cleverly mastered to boot.
In the opening chapter, “The Hell Jar,” Kelley begins: “If you’d asked me, back in my early twenties, why I was still a virgin, I would’ve told you I was holding out for true love, even as I was becoming increasingly concerned I’d never find it. Why? The only guys who ever seemed to really like me were schlubs I wasn’t that into, whereas the dudes I yearned for either never gave me the time of day or dated me only long enough to discover, it seemed, that I wasn’t who they wanted.” If we look back to the beginning of literature and forward, we can observe that while we have many differences and time between us, men and woman have always questioned their lot in love. Kelly’s introduction hooks the reader from page one, and no matter the tales of woe ahead, we continue reading as if enchanted by a siren’s call.
The remaining chapters follow suit — witty and playful, but most definitely adult. The bawdy nature of the book is most evident in section five, “All’s Well That Ends with an Orgasm: Ah, Yes, the Sex” which includes chapters, “Lady’s Chattering Lover: Ten Things Not to Say after Sex” and “The Sun Also Rises (But Sometimes Not the Penis): How to Handle ‘Male Issues’”. Then, of course there is section seven, “Love’s Labors Found,” which includes chapter, “Madame Ho-Vary: Is Cheating Ever Okay?” As you can see, the titles are brilliant. Likewise, the writing style, criticism and shared personal experiences to these literary characters are just as memorable and poignant.
Much Ado About Loving is book for your favorite lover of literature or anyone that has loved, lost and still continued to search for a connection to their lonely heart. But, more than anything, this work is for all of us hopeless romantics, who, in having withstood the up and downs of love, can still laugh and do it all over again.