For Valentine's Day, a few of our favorite love stories to read, watch and hear
The last two years have caused so much disruption and despondency in our lives, our work — and in our love. As we look forward to a spring that (possibly, hopefully) brings us closer to normalcy, Valentine's Day gives us an opportunity to relearn and redefine what it means to love and be loved. What better way to go through that journey than accompanied by books, songs, and movies about passion, devotion, and relationships?
Below are some of the favorites of NPR's Culture Desk team — to be enjoyed whether you're celebrating Valentine's Day with a partner, family, or simply dedicating the holiday to yourself.
What to watch
Truly, Madly, Deeply
Nina (Juliet Stevenson) is in mourning for her boyfriend, Jamie (Alan Rickman) in this 1990 film. She loved him and after his death she can't move on to build another relationship.
Then Nina's devotion is rewarded when, miraculously, Jamie returns as a fully physical ghost and they return to a semblance of their life together. So far, so Valentine's Day. But then, as she exults in his tenderness and humor, she also encounters his faults, forgotten in her grief. Nina finds that she can hold her love of Jamie and also be open to a new soulmate. Valentine's Day is for those we love and those we will love.
— Barbara Campbell, editor
Evan Bates and Madison Chock
I'm not usually a sucker for this kind of stuff, but after I saw Bates and Chock's amazing space-agey ice-dance routine (she's an alien! he's an astronaut) at the Beijing Olympics, I looked them up online and learned that the U.S. skaters are couple in real life — totally not surprising given their on-ice chemistry.
Take a look at some of their performances!
— Bridget Bentz, producer
Valentine's Day is a wildly inconsistent holiday. No one is safe. Some years are romantic, some are brutal, some are honestly boring. On a day when you can guarantee nothing about what someone is feeling about love, I recommend the show that will make you feel everything about love: Ted Lasso.
Ted Lasso is just as good as everyone says. Actually, it's better. For all it's sporty premise, it's really a show about love: How weird, and funny, and hard, and unexpected love is. How small. How big. I watched Ted Lasso with my partner. I watched Ted Lasso with my father. If it weren't for Roy's trademark expletives, I'd watch it with a class of kindergarteners. I've watched Ted Lasso laughing, and crying, and when I didn't really care to do anything at all. And what could be more Valentinian than that?
— Catherine Whelan, Morning Edition editor/producer
What to read
Eye to Eye: Portraits of Lesbians
I spend Valentine's Day thinking about all the kinds of love that I'm lucky to experience: romantic partnership, close friendship, familial love and community belonging. Having that kind of love in my life feels inextricable from coming out as a lesbian years ago, and the freedom it gave me to be my whole self with the people I love.
So I cry every time I look at old pictures of lesbians — particularly those by JEB (Joan E. Biren), a Washington, D.C.-based photographer who has documented the lives of queer people in photos and film since 1971. Her book Eye to Eye: Portraits of Lesbians is filled with pictures of lesbians — of all ages, races, classes and abilities. It's incredibly moving to see these pictures of the lesbians who, because they were openly queer in violently homophobic times, made it possible for my partner and I to live openly, too. And that's nothing to say of how *beautiful* these pictures are — well-composed black and white photos, artful mementos of lives lived radically.
— Natalie Escobar, associate editor
The Little Prince
The Little Prince is many different things to many different people. Where young readers might see a fantasy adventure, some adults see it as a fable about growing older and losing a childlike creativity. For me The Little Prince is a meditation on love and friendship and how affairs of the heart can feel so wonderful but also hurt like mad.
As a bonus, check out this piece on Little Prince adaptations.
— Elizabeth Blair, senior producer
A sprawling work of fiction that spans decades — which illuminates love found, lost, requited and delayed. Searing in its intensity as you viscerally suffer, as love is akin to an illness, a virus, a disease that infects all the senses and the soul. Poor Florentino Ariza pines for Fermina Daza, his contagion, in ways grand and small. First published in Spanish, it finds Colombian Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez in command of all his powers. A story of enduring love.
—Nicholas Charles, chief desk editor
To explain why this book by Andrew Sean Greer is appropriate for a holiday dedicated to love would give the game away. So instead I'll just say this funny, sad and uncomfortably insightful novel is about a middle-aged gay writer who goes on an international book tour to get avoid having to attend the wedding of his ex-boyfriend. The book's narrator knows him well, so well that the final image arrives like a thunderclap — so surprising and satisfying that it made my black, cold, desiccated husk of a heart grow three damn sizes.
I mean it's still a husk. Just, you know, a bigger one.
— Glen Weldon, reporter and critic
What to listen to
"They Say I'm Different," by Betty Davis
Betty Davis' loves included jazz giant Miles Davis (she was his second wife), Hugh Masekela, Eric Clapton and Robert Palmer. But in a more progressive era, she would've been famous on her own merits. Davis was ahead of her time. She recorded a few albums in the 1970s and then vanished into obscurity. Her unabashedly horny performances of her own funky love songs drew comparisons to Mick Jagger and surely kept her from mainstream success. In 1974, the year "They Say I'm Different" was released, an admiring review in The New York Times noted, "like Bessie Smith and all those other dirty‐blues singers of 40 years ago, Miss Davis is trying to tell us something real and basic about our irrational needs; and Western civilization puts its highest premiums on conformity and rationality and rarely recognizes the Bessies or the Bettys until they're gone." Betty Davis died on Feb. 9.
— Neda Ulaby, correspondent
"El Día Que Me Quieras," by Carlos Gardel
Whenever I call my mother and sing "El Dia Que Me Quieras" to her — she's 88 and I've been calling her every day during the pandemic — she swoons and it reminds me of something she and my father did every New Year's Eve. They were both born in Argentina and locos about Carlos Gardel, and they'd play "El Dia" and his other hits on the turntable in our suburban American living room and spend the night dancing the tango. The song is about all the magnificent things that will magically happen in the world when the singer's love is requited: "life will be full of flowers ... the jealous stars will see us pass by." The song was written for an eponymous 1935 movie and in an interview with NPR another Argentine composer, Gustavo Santaolalla, called it "one of the most beautiful melodies ever written."
— Jerome Socolovsky, editor
"Quiero Besarte," by Tequila
Why not embrace frivolity this Valentine's day? Amid all the unnecessary stress of the holiday, Tequila's rollicking tune presents a more lighthearted take on love — perfect for those of us who are really just interested in being kissed. Because the stakes might be high for choosing a life partner, but they're slightly lower when contemplating how much you'd like Timothée Chalamet to hit your line.
— Fi O'Reilly, intern
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