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Us: Americans Talk About Love Paperback – January 5, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (January 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865479291
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865479296
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,056,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Reviving the format of his 2001 Gig: Americans Talk About Their Jobs, author and journalist Bowe surveyed Americans of all ages and backgrounds for their thoughts on romance. Beginning with the prompt, "Please tell me about the person you have loved the most," each interview illustrates love as unique to its beholder. Love strikes one respondent in a rehab center, another during a crystal meth binge, another in the killing fields of Cambodia, another in the aftermath of divorce; love also proves its dominion over class differences, natural disasters (like hurricane Katrina), disease (like Alzheimers), and even death. While the more dramatic stories will likely stick with readers longest, plenty of accounts chronicling the deep, gentle bonds of long-lived romance, or the intense burn of young love, strike satisfying chords. Bowe allows each of his subjects the space to tell their stories, and each one proves compelling in itself, while showing that love is indeed a many-splendored (and many-splintered) thing, hard to pin down and often unexpected. Though timed conspicuously for Valentine's gift-giving, this hard-to-put-down take on love is surprisingly substantial.

Review

“In Us: Americans Talk About Love, John Bowe uses first-person accounts to uncover the incredible range of human experiences with love . . . No aspect of lust, greed, need or devotion is ignored . . . It is as compelling as literary fiction . . . but it also functions as a kind of self-help manual, forcing readers to examine their own longings, failings and assumptions about love. —Julie Scelfo, The New York Times

 

“Bowe and his colleagues interviewed people with backgrounds and experiences as wide-ranging as the country is diverse, and whittled those dialogues down to short stories told in the subject’s own voice . . . It’s a dream book for anyone with a respectable sense of voyeurism.” —Ellen McCarthy, Washington Post

 

“In Us: Americans Talk About Love, author John Bowe presents 44 firsthand stories—hideous, hilarious and ultimately hopeful—from the likes of teenagers, sex workers, Amtrak conductors, immigrants and octogenarians. Every day is Valentine’s Day in this profound, touching work of social anthropology.” —Los Angeles Times Magazine

 

“Journalist John Bowe and his coeditors jack us with uncanny directness into the Great American Eros—and in some cases the Id . . . This gaggle of voices from all walks of life will have you giggling, crying, and muttering to yourself in alarmingly rapid succession.” —Ben Dickinson, ELLE magazine

 

“Funny, brutally honest, quirky, devastatingly painful, and hopeful all at the same time. Every story is a small movie I wish someone would make.” —Judd Apatow, writer, director and producer of The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Funny People

 

“It’s interesting reading this volley of love stories. One finds oneself comparing one’s own great love to each of these couples, thinking, ‘Oh, we’re a much better couple than them,’ or, ‘Gee, they seem to know a few things I don’t.’” —Ira Glass, host and producer of This American Life

 

“A new engrossing book, comprised of compelling interviews with ‘average’ everyday Americans, all about the great loves of their lives. The book resembles a great work of literary fiction…I opened it up and got sucked right in.” —Maura Kelly, MarieClaire.com dating blog

 

“Unlike the typical anthology filled with essays by familiar authors, Us offers love stories by nonliterary types, told in their own voices . . . Editor John Bowe takes the pulse of American experiences of love won and lost . . . Although Bowe claims to have no special expertise on the subject, he’s quite articulate in describing love’s endlessly surprising nature. —Carmela Ciuraru, The Christian Science Monitor

 

“The literary version of a box of chocolates from your sweetheart . . . a Valentine’s gift made to last. You could read one short, sharply edited story per day, just as you could pick one chocolate a day from your 2-pound heart-shaped box. But not every tale in this oral history is sugary-sweet . . . Some of them are beautiful. But many of them are painful—even if only with the bittersweet twinge of an unrequited first crush.” —Louisville, KY/Southern Indiana Courier-Journal

 

“[A] novel and fascinating approach to the problem of writing about love.” —Glamour.com daily dating blog, “Single-ish”

 

“I love love, in all its permutations—gritty, glorious, courageous, clumsy, brutal and beautiful. US: Americans Talk About Love is the wisest, frankest, most entertaining book on the subject. The extraordinary stories in these pages illuminate the absurd wonder of the ever-hopeful human heart.” —Isabel Gillies, author of Happens Every Day: An All Too True Story

 

“This amazing book made me think of Walt Whitman, who asked ‘Who speaks of miracles? I know of nothing but miracles.’ Like the best of Studs Terkel, the detail and power of the voices in these pages remind us that a kind of miracle is unfolding every day, all around us.” —Nick Flynn, author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City
 

“[The] stories are amazing. Quirky, moving, despairing, transcendent. Not prisoner to fashion.” —NPR’s “On Point with Tom Ashbrook”

 

“Stirring, humorous, altogether addictive.” —NBC New York

 

“Oh good God this book’s a dazzler . . . Like the best oral history books . . . Us reads totally unmediated slash natural and, therefore, mildly voyeuristic—you’re a few lines into each chapter, each person’s individual story, before you realize two things: 1) how much you want to know what happens next, and 2) how unwilling you’d be, if you were just a stranger sitting next to that person, to ask . . . Read it now.” —Weston Cutter, Corduroy Books

 

“If there’s an overriding theme to this book, it is of love’s enormous power—to push, prod, change, humiliate, thrill and infuriate . . . Taken together, these stories are almost overwhelming in their emotions—betrayal, depression, giddiness, confusion, fury.” —Laurie Hertzel, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune

 

“While the more dramatic stories will likely stick with readers longest, plenty of accounts chronicling the deep, gentle bonds of long-lived romance, or the intense burn of young love, strike satisfying chords. Bowe allows each of his subjects the space to tell their stories, and each one proves compelling in itself . . . This hard-to-put-down take on love is surprisingly substantial.” —Publishers Weekly, [Starred review]

 

“Fun and interesting . . . Following the tradition of oral historian Studs Terkel . . . each respondent provides an honest and deeply personal view into the passions and foibles of love … reads like a compilation of short stories.” —Library Journal


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Customer Reviews

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Each story in this book is a little gem.
rouxbe t
Instead, it's a vibrant portrait of love in its many shapes, sizes, colors... none of them simple, all of them real.
W. Perry Moore IV
It's refreshing to read the real voice of a person trying to share how he/she experiences love.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By sadogtasi on January 29, 2010
Format: Paperback
I found Us to be a surprising and compelling read on several levels. A number of publications have highlighted the particularly dramatic and counterintuitive love narratives Bowe includes in the book. As such, I assumed I would approach Us as a perusal, eyeing the intriguing introductory quotes that launch the 44 interviews before choosing what to read.

However I soon found myself pulled into the conceit that gives Us its organizational structure. In arranging chapters by the duration of the subject's love experience, Bowe implicitly asks us to consider how time shapes the meaning we assign to love. In reading the book, as I ultimately did, it in its printed order, I found myself wondering whether length matters in matters of the heart.

Bowe begins with a pre-schooler contemplating her weeks-old love for a boy who shares his toys with her. The book concludes with stories of couples who have endured the trials of time and reaped the unique benefits of a romantic love spanning fifty or more years. Between these extremes, Us introduces a set of experiences of varying lengths, each so remarkably diverse that one is left with the poet's question: Can the word love have shared meaning?

Through Bowe's tactful editing, the reader hears the voices of men and women facing the impossible task of putting language to such experience. The interviews are always surprising, especially when they reveal the ways love can bring out the most strikingly unloving behavior. Perhaps even more surprising, however, are the interviews that remind us love is not always surprising.

Bowe concludes, after years of interviewing and editing, that he is now more perplexed by love than when he took on the book. I reached the same conclusion.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By rouxbe t on January 29, 2010
Format: Paperback
Each story in this book is a little gem. Some are sad, some are happy -- all kinds of people speak, in an astonishing variety of voices which in some mysterious way build upon each other the more you read. I knew I was interested in the book but I didn't really anticipate it being such a page-turner -- I couldn't wait to get back to it and read the next story. And reading them, you really do get an ever-so-slightly clearer idea about what love is. This would make a good valentine's day present.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Katherine Dunn on February 5, 2010
Format: Paperback
I think everyone loves to hear stories about how so and so met, or how so and so stay together or not. As someone who went through blind dates and the other usual disappointments of 'finding love', I can read this from the comfort of having found 'it'. But I think this is a nice, witty, sometimes sad, sometimes funny collection of interviews- diving into the mystery of how things can work out, or not.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By W. Hangley on February 14, 2010
Format: Paperback
John Bowe has done us a service with this book - as well as we might think we know our fellow Americans, we have a lot to learn.

These are the sorts of stories that make one think twice when gazing surreptitiously at some odd couple on the subway or at the gas station. They make it much harder to forget that everyone we see, no matter how poorly they may appear to fit in the matrix of what we call normal, wants, needs or grapples with that thing we call love - just like us.

And with each character given free rein to share their own very idiosyncratic version of an experience virtually all of us share, this book dodges a trap. Bowe never suggests that he knows what love is, why it is, what makes it work or why it fails. He never privileges one kind of love over another. By arranging the tales according to the duration of the relationship, Bowe chooses the one metric that can be called truly objective. He doesn't try to line them up by their level of success or failure. He lets each stand on its own, unburdened by any ranking, assessment or judgment.

That decision on Bowe's part disappointed at least one reviewer here ("Mr Bowe does not use the voices of his interview subjects to enlighten us on the topic ....what can we really learn about love from their stories?"), but rather than being a weakness I think this ranks among the book's greatest strengths. The reading experience is uncluttered by Bowe's personality, or those of his many assistants. The reader is left free to decide what these stories tell us about love in general, or our own loves.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Joseph H. Race VINE VOICE on February 8, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It may be the full moon, or karma, or the stars were lined up in the right order, but whatever the cause, it is a wonderful book to come out for Valentine's Day. Did Bowe or his publisher plan it that way? I hope so. My wife and I have read a few segments together, and enjoyed it every time. It helped define love for us, and what keeps people together for the long haul, or in the short run as the case may be. It is also a good book to read a few pages at a time, and then pick it up when times and schedules permit. For me, it was a page turner, and I often found myself skipping other reading because I wanted to read the next love story...A good book for contemplation and meditation about your personal future with your loved one. Read it together like we did.
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