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VINE VOICEon August 3, 2009
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
FANTASTIC!! Read it if you're in love -- read it if you've ever been in love or wanted to be in love. Read it if you're stewing over a recent breakup. You'll find plenty in here to enjoy. This is a great collection of true break-up stories, told by some of the best writers around. The stories are at times profound, hysterically funny, and poignant -- one more witty than the next. Despite the title, I didn't find this to be a sad read. In at least one point during most of the stories, I found myself laughing out loud. At other times, I found the passsages so profound I had to share them with friends.

The stories are all over the place -- uniformly well-written, but in all shapes and sizes. The relationships range from gay to straight, young love, old love, unconsummated love, crazy sex addictions, crazy stalkers, roller-coaster relationships, May-December relationships, inter-continental relationships, some end with an explosion, some with a fizzle, some with death.

Kate Christensen writes of a romance during her sophomore year of high school -- with a classmate's recently-divorced dad who was (supposed to be) chaperoning the Spanish club to Mexico. Josh Kilmer-Purcell writes of his efforts to bed 25 men in celebration of his twenty-fifth birthday, with especially entertaining results with #7 and #s 17 & 18 (a couple). Gary Shtenygart writes of his sad Texas girlfriend, who "cried over the morning's cappuccino, cried over the evening's last espresso . . . " and taught him "there was a pain even a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor couldn't cure. A Texas-size pain, if you will." Dan Kennedy writes of a romance during his early twenties, with a driven aerobics instructor who had an apartment full of self-help books, ten years his senior . He was listening to college radio and drinking too much beer & she wanted to transform him into an adult with a mission statement and a real job -- much of the relationship was spent in couples counseling until it was derailed by the community theater lesbian. The last line of Kennedy's story -- post-breakup, he wonders who will be the next person "to actually let you see them naked. You're made confident by nothing more than knowing that with so many years still in front of you, it is simply bound to happen again." Brilliant.

The book also contains three graphic stories -- illustrated, cartoons, if you will. Emily Flake's Why Won't You Just Love me?, about her efforts to seduce a cartoonist, is just laugh out loud funny and pathetic. Wonderful.

There are so many things to love about this book -- but there were several things I didn't like. First, I didn't like that it had to end. I could have kept reading brilliant stories like these forever. Second, it introduced me to a number of authors I hadn't heard of before -- which led to an inevitable book-buying spree. Other than that, the book is about perfect. Highly, highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon January 19, 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This was a fun read, a sort of voyeuristic glimpse into the missteps, the hazards and the drama of relationships gone awry. Worth a giggle, but definitely not a self-help guide. These are bad relationships, remember?

Still, sometimes it can be soothing to commiserate with others who've had it as bad as or worse than we ever have. I also have to admit to luxuriating in a pool of smug delight upon reading a few of the more dysfunctional couplings ("oh, I'd never say/do/think THAT!")

Ultimately, though, upon finishing this book, I couldn't help but feel an endearing sense of admiration for our race as a whole...we risk a lot when we chose to love and commit, knowing that it doesn't always end well. But through the tears, the accusations, the loneliness, the despair, most of us emerge, scarred but not broken, ready to do it all over again. Recommended as entertainment.
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on December 29, 2010
I was killing time at a bookstore, randomly picked this up and could not put it down - fantastic collection of love stories. It's not that I could relate to the stories too much but more to the emotions - all those crappy feelings that crash upon you like a wave when you break up. Reading how others have gone through the same s**t, in many cases even so much worse than what I had experienced, was comforting to know. Some were funny, some were sad - the only one that made me cry, for a solid ten minutes, was the last one by Wendy Brenner.

I would not recommend this as an educational book on love for a young teen (as seen from other reviews) - this is more for people who could already relate to love's highs and lows.
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on August 22, 2009
Love and relationships are complicated. This collection of experiences covers lots of ground. The rending of the human heart here is extraordinary. You will laugh, cry, talk to yourself about similar happenings in your life, ditch your idiotic romantic ideals and question just about every assumption you have made in your life and then some. This book has some fine young writers who write with an honesty and openness that befits the enormously mysterious and baffling world of love and relationships. These are the things people do to each other and for each other in the name of love told with articulate black n' blue humor. Buy it, read it, read it to other people, give it to other people, read it again, buy it for other people. You get the idea.
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Where's the love, I kept asking myself, and how can you have heartbreak without heart? And wasn't there alleged to be some humor in here somewhere? This pretty much explains all the picking it up and putting it down again that used up my first couple of weeks with this book and why I was considering, instead of writing a review, just endorsing comments in two other reviews here--the one that says the four letter word that this book is about doesn't start with "L," but with "F" and the one that found it impossible to wade through the opening story by Junot Diaz.

But then, hallelujah, at about the halfway point, when I'd just about concluded my problem was a different-generation thing, I came upon the brilliant and hilarious and insightful nine-pager by Brock Clarke that made all my prior grumbles irrelevant. After dropping everything and ordering Clarke's first novel from Amazon (only used ones were available, sad to say), I decided to trudge on. Happily, I found more gems in the back of the book and would particularly like to recommend: Jami Attenberg's story, which immediately follows Clarke's and reads somewhat like a companion piece; Amanda Stern on the Boy Scout boyfriend from hell; Pasha Malla's promising, but not quite satisfying, story of how his life imitated Ethan Hawke's "Before Sunset"/"Before Sunrise" movies (I can't help but think he could have made it better and tighter if he'd deigned to actually watch those movies before trying to imitate them); and, without question, this book's final and most powerful piece: Wendy Brenner's tale of lost love, brimming with all the heart and heartbreak and if-onlys I found largely missing from the first half, would be my nomination for the "must read."
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VINE VOICEon November 19, 2009
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Being on the upswing from not one but two breakups that left me heartsore, I dragged my feet on reading this book for several months. I'm glad I finally opened it, though, because I found it oddly comforting to read the stories of other people's dysfunctional relationships coming to an end. Misery loves company, I guess... and the authors of these stories are uniquely good at spinning their tales of misery in ways that are not only sorrowful but also funny, affirming, and best of all, come from a perspective of life having moved on. Michael Taekens says in his introduction (paraphrasing) that he specifically wanted stories from people who could look at their past breakups through a lens of time and maturity, and he succeeded in putting together a wonderful little collection of tales that, while poignant, are distanced enough from the world-crushing immediacy of the breakup that I was left with the gentle reminder that things are really going to be OK after all.
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VINE VOICEon July 21, 2009
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
What a refreshing collection of short stories that reflect the complexity of human love in our beautifully diversified society. I was so not expecting the diversity of subject matters covered in this small book; and was glad to be exposed to the various emotions, situations of time and place for the individual authors. Bravo. Expect the unexpected and be open minded in the human experience that transcend time, culture and place. Some day we will learn what love means and in the meantime, the authors shared with us the journey that we may experience in getting there, if at all in one's life time.
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VINE VOICEon July 16, 2009
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I normally only read non fiction. I got this and read it and it was fun, funny, sad and all together realistic. You can at least relate to a couple or a few things in this book as we've all had our share of bad relationships (if you haven't be thankful or you're very young and you haven't had to go through it yet) I've shared this book with my girlfriends and they all agree that we can relate to a couple or a few things.
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VINE VOICEon August 9, 2009
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
At the risk of sounding as if I'm channeling Forrest Gump, a book of short stories is like a box of chocolates: you'll never like all of them; some will leave a bad taste in your mouth and others will have you begging for more. Love Is a Four-Letter Word contains 23 true stories, all about breakups, bad relationships, and broken hearts.

A handful were excellent, a few I skimmed (not a fan of Junot Diaz, and his is the first one), and most were good reads, but not memorable. The best writers, I believe, can make us laugh and cry (like Pat Conroy in The Prince of Tides). No story in this compilation succeeded in doing that, but the last one, by Wendy Brenner was deep, soulful, and affecting.

Some are by gay authors and some by straight folks. Frankly, that was the least noticeable difference. More obvious was the range of writing, insight, and ability to convey emotion, but that's to be expected in a book of this kind. If anything, the stories flowed quite seamlessly from one to the other. We have Mr. Taeckens, the editor, to thank for that.

Emily Flake's mini graphic novel was quirky and appealing. It's one of two in the book. Lynda Barry wrote the other one. I liked that they were included. It was different and gave some cred to a form that is finally getting well-deserved attention.

If reading about the dark side of love appeals to you, this should sate your craving.
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VINE VOICEon September 29, 2009
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
this book is a must read for anyone who has been or is in a bad relationship (lets face it we have all been there) this covers all feelings, spectrums and attitudes on relationships..., this is a great read without being overly dramatic
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