where the writers are

With pub date for How the French Invented Love: 900 Years of Passion and Romance scheduled for Oct. 23, and three Bay area readings coming up, (Oct. 24, 7 pm at Books Inc, Palo Alto; Oct. 28, 4pm at Book Passage in Corte Madera; and November 8, 7:30 pm at Mrs. Dalloway's in Berkeley), I'm as excited as a first-time author. . . . even though I've already authored five other books and edited even more. 

One thing diferent that happened during the writing of this book is that personal stories kept intruding into the text.  My young editor at HarperCollins encouraged me to keep these intrusions, and I followed his advice.  Still, as a trained academic, I had my misgivings.  Was this a form of self-promotion that had no place in a serious discussion of French love and literature?  What I didn’t know is what author Diane Johnson told me in a blurb written for the book, calling it “a distinguished contribution to our experience of a great literature, as well as an enduring memoir.”  “An enduring memoir”!   My God!  I simply didn’t know I had written a memoir of any sort until she pointed that out to me.

Still, the bulk of the material focuses on the French themselves, their literature and history, and their obsession with love. Pamela Druckman, who reviewed this book for The Wall Street Journal (October 20), says that the French have "almost as many varieties of love as of cheese," and she notes that I cover a lot of these varieties, from twelfth-century courtly love, to seventeenth-century gallantry, nineteenth-century century romanticism, and free love among the existentialists. In fact, I carry the story up to the present moment, with Dominique Strauss-Kahn's unsavory affairs and the French reactions against him.

The book also has some of my favorite graphic images, including photos of the many love locks affixed to the fences of two bridges overlooking the Seine. Behind the apse of Notre Dame is a great place to hang out and watch the lovers who cross the bridge, attach a lock, kiss passionately, and throw the key into the river.