Saturday, October 13, 2012

Five best books on early love and the flush of infatuation

John Banville's novels include The Untouchable, The Sea, and the newly released Ancient Light.

One of his five best books on early love and the perilous flush of infatuation, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
The Red and the Black
by Stendhal (1839)

Julien Sorel must be one of the most caddish heroes of any 19th-century novel—how one wishes that he and Thackeray's Becky Sharp had got together, for what a pair they would have made! Stendhal was a great cynic, and his portrayal of the love affair between the young Julien, son of a humble carpenter, and Mme. Rênal, wife of the Mayor of Verrières, a provincial backwater, is a powerful evocation of carnal obsession and at the same time a sly parody of the romantic fictions of the day. One of the dark delights of the book is in following the stages by which a clever and ruthless young man makes his way up the social ladder, yet it is a mark of Stendhal's greatness that, for all Julien's beady-eyed ambition, his affair with Mme. Rênal convinces in its immediacy and erotic intensity. Black the book may be at its heart, but in its passion it is a burning shade of scarlet.
Read about the other books on Banville's list.

The Red and the Black is among Warren Adler's five best books about ambition and Norman Mailer's top ten works of literature.

--Marshal Zeringue