What is this thing called love?” Cole Porter lyricized. Lust, men know, their blinkered desire for a woman. Respectfully, appropriately, mindfully, and sensitively expressed, desire is a good thing. Men pursuing women, women having babies, still make the world – such as it is – go ’round.
Desire energizes men, is a driving force for them, especially for young men. The need to make love to a woman is in their genes. A guy will walk a long road to a small chance of intimacy. He will take foolish risks in a deep-seated quest to repeat a terrific all-body feeling, sow seed, and express love.
But committed love, for some men, as some women know, may take longer. A man may reach this love through his desire, or it can beckon him from “across a crowded room,” as Oscar Hammerstein II wrote in South Pacific. A man who has lusted but not loved has the best to look forward to.
These stories look at men’s adoration of women from many curves in the Love-Desire Highway. Master Hawaiian storyteller, Jeff Gere, recalls a conversation he had with a Samoan man at a “Lei Queen Contest” in Honolulu. Russ Allison Loar takes an all-encompassing view of women in “What Men Want.”
Donna Julia, a key character in Lord Byron’s epic satire, Don Juan, was 23 years old when she wrote a lament of women’s plight in “Donna Julia’s Letter to Don Juan.” Her epistle is juxtaposed with a Shakespeare lyric, “Sigh No More, Ladies,” sung in Much Ado About Nothing.
Philip Roth tells masterfully of an older man’s attraction to a younger woman and of her attraction to him, in “The Chaos of Eros,” a piece that is in the book but that I cannot publish here for contractual reasons. A movie, Elegy, directed by Isabel Coixet, was made of this story, and you can see the trailer here. Finally, Jon Pearson celebrates love with “A Busload of Banjo Players.”
Writers have sweated fervent reams about love and desire. The stories that follow are a bare introduction to this universe of ecstasy and agony.
It’s hot in here.
You who love and you who lust: grab a fan and flip the page.