Love and Happiness is a profound meditation on the meaning of eros, the creative and disturbing power usually thought of as romantic love. Four of the greatest artists of the Western world lead a pilgrimage through the erotic cosmos, exploring real-world dilemmas that they knew well and that still bedevil us. First we follow in Dante’s footsteps from Inferno to Paradiso, then Shakespeare is our guide to Hell, Jane Austen to Purgatory, and Al Green to Paradise. Some of their stories are horrifying, showing the devastation that warped love can wreak. Some are inspiring, helping us imagine what a gift love can be in our own lives. Reading these stories together, Love and Happiness offers a vision of love that’s complex, sobering, and ultimately deeply comforting.
Craig Werner and Rhonda Lee have crafted a brilliant study of love, using the seemingly incongruous figures of Dante, Shakespeare, Austen, and Rev. Al Green not only to guide us through central texts but also through our own lives. Kudos to the authors for writing in a style both scholastically substantive yet refreshingly readable! The third chapter offers rich insight into Jane Austen’s surprisingly modern treatment of eros and philia in a society where love was a commodity. Jane Austen fans and foes should not miss Werner and Lee’s introductory remarks on the manufactured version of “dear Aunt Jane” or their discerning discussions of Pride and Prejudice,Mansfield Park, and Emma. After reading Love & Happiness, my eyes have been so opened to the nuances of love that I think I will never read classic literary texts in the same way—nor will I perhaps be the same as a wife, daughter, or sister. –Emily Auerbach, author of Searching for Jane Austen and co-host of “University of the Air”