C. D. C. Reeve, Author . Harvard Univ. $24.95 (203p) ISBN 978-0-674-01711-5

Not a systematic treatise but a "commonplace book" of stories and ideas, this philosophical exploration of love focuses on its conflicts and paradoxes, rather than its joys and raptures. How can Christianity command love of God, when "love doesn't seem to be the sort of thing we can give on command"? How does adult love relate to the infantile desire for one's first love, mother? Reeve, a professor of philosophy at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, also tries to shed light on the tensions between love and its troubled relatives—anxiety, jealousy, sentimentality, pornography and sadomasochism (all brilliantly covered in Roland Barthes's A Lover's Discourse ). The book draws on numerous thinkers, including Plato, Kant, Kierkegaard, Sartre and Gilligan, and analyzes examples of love from the works of such writers as Homer, Turgenev, Forster, Kundera and Murdoch. Relying heavily on fictional examples, it has a correspondingly hothouse feel. At times, the discussion is clear, as in assessing the alternation in married life between the humdrum and the romantic. But often the writing is obscure and convoluted (though sometimes beautifully so), as if written from within one of love's paradoxes: "Who I am is as much—and as little—under the authority of others as what love is, and what I must do if I am to love." (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 01/17/2005
Release date: 03/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 216 pages - 978-0-674-04261-2
Paperback - 203 pages - 978-0-674-02563-9
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