A Similar Kind of Love Song
September 13, 2012 by Jane Jonas
This is a republish from Omnivoracious, which published it yesterday. We recently featured another piece from this wonderful blog, but this essay was too good not to share as well. David Levithan’s new book, Every Day, is winning accolades (awesome video, be sure to check it out) even though it just came out two weeks ago! Enjoy!
BY DAVID LEVITHAN
Recently I was reading an interview in OUT magazine with Romy Madley Croft, the lead singer of the band the xx. Croft, talking about coming out, told the reporter, “If I was singing about a guy, I would probably be singing a similar kind of love song, really.” And I was struck that the same thing applied to my writing—especially with my new book, Every Day.
Every Day is about A, who wakes up each morning in a different body and a different life. It’s not giving anything away to say that in the first chapter, A falls in love with a girl name Rhiannon . . . and that their relationship is rather complicated.
So there I was—a gay man, writing from the point of view of a character who is neither gay or straight, male or female. A has no inherent race, no inherent religion. A has grown up without friends, without family. A is purely a self. Whereas I, in my culturally and societally constructed life, am not.
Ever since Boy Meets Boy, my first novel, was published, I’ve received thousands of letters and emails from readers. Some of the most interesting ones have been from people who were surprised that they, non-gay or non-male, identified so deeply with the love story. Love is love, more than one reader wrote to me. And I thought, yes, that’s it exactly. (I almost want to put it as a tip on my website, for all those students who write to me telling me their teacher has assigned them to identify the central theme in my work. Well, there it is. Love is love.)
In Every Day, I wanted to look at that theme from a variety of angles. I wanted to test that theme, and find its limitations. Where A starts in Every Day is where many of my other characters—my will grayson in Will Grayson, Will Grayson, for example—reach at the end of my other novels. That is, they recognize that in order to love and be loved, they must be true to themselves. A is always true in this way. Writing A made me realize that this is one of the more helpful questions you can ask about love—if I were truly myself, only myself, and not a gender, and not a sexual orientation, and not a race, and not any other external designation . . . what would I want? What would I do?
A gets to live this ideal. But Rhiannon, who doesn’t change bodies, is challenged to match it. This is the great conflict in the book, and informs one of the questions I posed to myself as I wrote it: Does love indeed conquer all? Or, in other words, does our world always allow love to be love?
Again, I come back to that phrase “a similar kind of love song.” I like that she doesn’t make them the same. I like that they’re similar. There are certainly different challenges, at some times, in some places, with a gay love story. I often try to illuminate that experience in my writing. But there are also the same universal emotions. Joy is joy. Fear is fear. Vulnerability is vulnerability. Just like music is music, writing is writing, and love is love.
About The Author:
Jane Jonas is the CEO of Eyeth Studios, LLC (http://www.eyethstudios.com). Jane grew up in the Bay Area, and has always been somewhat obsessed with technology and literature. Her first efforts at entrepreneurship came in elementary school. At age seven, she used her Apple IIc to write up newsletters with stories and jokes, and then peddled them to the neighbors. That early drive for independence and creativity has never faded. Throughout her career, she has been involved with establishing underground newsletters with groundbreaking journalism stories, interviewing, filming and editing videos, designing and producing websites, and administrating employees. This diverse background led to the formation of Eyeth Studios in 2006. In her spare time, Jane enjoys mothering her two rhodesian ridgebacks, cooking gourmet messes, and reading as much as possible. Her personal website and CV may be found at janejonas.com.