Thursday, February 13, 2014

Reader, I strangled him.

<3 Which classic love story would be enlivened by a nice messy murder? <3

Buh-bye, Humbert Humbert. Let's get that little bit of housekeeping out of the way.

Then perhaps Shade No.51: post-mortem grey.

And how about if the widow Karenina was discovered in chapter one, quickly unhooking the piano wire from the top of the stairs while Karenin lay dead and broken at the bottom? Okay the book would be shorter (and possibly unpublished) but I thought this when I was thirteen and I think it now: it's not love if you end up under a train.

That's pretty much my problem with so-called love stories all-round. I've never gone for the idea that love hurts.

And hurt - or at least conflict - is what makes a story. Empathy and Open-Mindedness by Jane Austen? I don't think so. Happy Valley by Emily Bronte? Perhaps not. Brokeback Mountain II: Ennis and Jack attend Wyoming Pride by Annie Proulx? If only.

Thankfully, my favourite literary love story already has the murders in it.  Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane meet when she is on trial for offing her lover in Strong Poison. They flirt over a stranger with his throat cut in Have His Carcass. They fall in love during a weekend of torrid psychological threats and general headwreck in Gaudy Night and then trip over a corpse in their (Busman's) Honeymoon cottage, hours after their wedding.

And woven through the four books, there's more genuine romance than in many murder-free novels.  Harriet, on remand in prison, rejects Peter's first proposal with the words: "If anyone does marry you it will be for the pleasure of hearing you talk piffle" but it's not piffle he's talking when, hitched at last in the final book, he says: "What do all the great words come to in the end but that? I love you, I am at rest with you, I have come home."

Then they open the cellar door and it all goes a bit pear-shaped.  But that's not love - that's a story.


Dana King said...

"Which classic love story would be enlivened by a nice messy murder?"

All of them.


Susan C Shea said...

I see I have to schedule some re-reads of Dorothy Sayers in this light. I never got caught up in it as a continuing romance, was to distracted by those corpses. Thanks, Catriona!

Paul D. Marks said...

Interesting piece, Catriona. And murderous minds think alike. Anna K. also makes an appearance in my post tomorrow...