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Us: Americans Talk About Love Paperback – January 5, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
“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
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
My two favorite stories were the one told by a man whose wife had a brain injury she sustained for 11 years until they found a miracle cure, and the one told by a man who loses the woman who changed his life during Hurricane Katrina. I cried when I read both of them.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Usually I bring this book on a first date. Or read this to a girl I'm interested in at my house. It's such a good way to start a relationship. Knowing that everyone falls in love. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Kyle Schutter
LOVED IT! This book was a little tough to read at first because it's a collection of interviews, and some of the interviews / writings (or just the way they're written) are just... Read morePublished on November 9, 2013 by ERIC OH
Poems and songs are written about this thing called 'love' and we know some relationships stand the test of time, others last only a few days or weeks. Read morePublished on December 14, 2012 by Gresil
After hearing John Bowe on NPR and reading a profile of him and this book in the NY Times, I had high expectations for this book. Read morePublished on March 8, 2010 by Falmo777
Ok. but not great. Taped interviews with people of different ages. Nothing new for me.Published on March 2, 2010 by James A. Green
In a lesser writer's hands, this book could have come off as schmaltzy as the latest romantic comedy movie-dreck that Hollywood pops out with alarmingly senseless regularity. Read morePublished on February 14, 2010 by W. Perry Moore IV
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. Read morePublished on February 8, 2010 by Joseph H. Race
As I was reading these stories, I found myself feeling thankful that John Bowe didn't edit like a bad referee. You know what a bad referee is? Read morePublished on February 7, 2010 by Amazon Customer
I so loved this book. It's like getting to see straight into the heart of America--or the many hearts of America, for one of its strengths is how very different and utterly... Read morePublished on February 6, 2010 by Jenny I.