Friday November 22, 2019

Love, Romance, and fiction

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Photo: parade.com

By Vikas Datta

It is that time of the year again when love and its expression is on everyone’s minds – and makes for a range of spectacles ranging from the touching to grotesquely ludicrous from both those who celebrate Valentine’s Day and those who deride it. But this is a fairly recent social phenomenon, and any serious, fairly wide-ranging reader has already come across any aspect of love that can be conceived – and they don’t have to be aficionados of the romantic genre.

Let alone its role in real life, love, taken here in its most conventional sense of romance, is a fundamental force in literature – and can be seen in various guises and stages that would bewilder the most amorous of us. It often drives the plot (or subverts it), and accounts for quite a bit of motivations of characters and their choices, actions and decisions, even if they are not those directly involved, and can be driving a totally different genre.

Not only the most famous detective in fiction, Sherlock Holmes is also the most noted bachelor, always making light of love – one who “never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer”.

But of the dozen stories in “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” (1892), eight have a motif or motivation of love right from the first (“A Scandal in Bohemia”) to the last (“The Adventure of the Copper Beeches“), especially “The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor”, in which Holmes figures out a mystery which is actually a complicated love story but also displays understanding, though being unsuccessful in placating the distressed party.

Holmes can also simulate love well enough when needed, once ending up engaged – to a housemaid – but with an ulterior motive. (“The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton“).

Love can even crop up unexpectedly, and help the protagonist achieve the outcome they were striving for. Was it apparent that a bachelor of the most regular habits and schedule, who embarks on a most singular adventure after accepting a bet at his club, would end up hitched at the end? This also enables him to find out that he has not lost his wager.

Phileas Fogg finds he had succeeded in traveling “Around the World in 80 Days” (Jules Verne, 1873), when he decides to marry Aouda, an Indian princess he had saved from being ritually immolated with her dead husband during his eventful journey, and tries to fix an appointment with a clergyman for the wedding.

“The course of true love never did run smooth,” says a character in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and a break-up between love partners – and the eventual (but not always) reconciliation, is a common component of love stories, and is frequently melodramatic. What if it comes in a way that leaves you in splits?

Say, the hero has left the supposed villain sweltering in a Turkish bath to rescue the heroine he suspects is confined against her will but she doesn’t appear grateful, or the parties make up in a cupboard in which they have been sent as a punishment by their former nurse, who still believes (and treats them) they are children.

For this, we must dip into the hilarious corpus of P.G. Wodehouse. These stories – “A Slice of Life” and “Portrait of a Disciplinarian” respectively – figure in “Meet Mr Mulliner” (1927), where you can also find what atypical actions love can lead you to do in “The Romance of a Bulb-Squeezer”.

And then who is the most successful love champion you could find in fiction? Going by the sheer number of carnal exploits, it is that arch-scoundrel, a cad and lecher, Sir Harry Paget Flashman, a bit player from “Tom Brown’s Schooldays” who gets his own series courtesy George Macdonald Fraser.

At one stage, Flashman, who gets embroiled in almost all major events of the 19th century, counts up his sexual conquests, “not counting return engagements”, and reaches a total of 478 – and at the moment is a dungeon in Gwalior during the 1857 Indian revolt! Since he is is just at a little over a third of his long and eventful life, it must have been considerably augmented, and would include two Indian maharanis, queens of Ethiopia and Madagascar and an imperial concubine who would later become the empress of China. The fictional ones range from assorted noblewomen, African-American slaves, and a daughter of Apache chief Mangas Colorado.

You could find much more extraordinary happening – to paraphrase Shakespeare, there is more in books and stories that can be dreamt in your philosophy. So celebrate Valentine’s Day as you like, but include reading a book. (IANS)

See these excellent collection of Romantic fictions from Amazon

Next Story

Here’s Why CEO Jeff Bezos Decided Books to be Amazon’s First Product

The store also sells Amazon electronics, including the Amazon Kindle e-book reader, Kindle Fire tablet series, the Amazon Echo, and the Amazon Fire TV

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Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and owner of Blue Origin. (Wikimedia commons)

Do you know why Jeff Bezos decided to sell books, and not CDs, online 22 years ago? A rediscovered 1997 video has revealed why the richest man of Earth chose books over CDs to be Amazon’s first product.

Rediscovered by analyst Brian Roemmele and shared on Twitter, the video shows a young Bezos speaking during a 1997 “Special Libraries Conference”.

“I picked books as the first best product to sell online, making a list of like 20 different products that you might be able to sell.

“Books were great as the first best because books are incredibly unusual in one respect, that is that there are more items in the book category than there are items in any other category by far.

“Music is number two, there are about 200,000 active music CDs at any given time. But in the book space there are over 3 million different books worldwide active in print at any given time across all languages, more than 1.5 million in English alone. So when you have that many items you can literally build a store online that couldn’t exist any other way,” Bezos says in the video.

The Amazon Founder and CEO who is worth $110 billion today said Amazon was able to capture people’s attention by giving them something that had real value – an online marketplace that made shopping easy.

Amazon
Hindi language added to Amazon messaging assistant for Indian users. Pixabay

“The June 1997 video is notable too because just a month earlier, Amazon went public for only $18 a share. As of yesterday’s close, Amazon was worth $1,778 per share,” TechRepublic reported on Wednesday.

Not just selling books online, Amazon has 526 physical retail locations globally, including 19 Amazon Books stores.

The company opened its first physical book store in Seattle’s University shopping centre in 2015.

Also Read: Google Aims to Partner with Banks to Offer Checking Accounts within Google Pay to Consumers

The first location in Seattle had approximately 5,000 titles stocked on its bookshelves, using shelf space to display the covers of books facing outwards instead of spines.

According to Amazon, the decision was made to showcase the authors and their work, rather than efficient use of space.

The store also sells Amazon electronics, including the Amazon Kindle e-book reader, Kindle Fire tablet series, the Amazon Echo, and the Amazon Fire TV. (IANS)