I’m not much of a cleaner, far from it. I’m the type that lets gather and collect dust before going on manic cleaning episodes periodically. Tonight was one of those times, which explains why I’m still up at 4:30 a.m. I’ve just finished up the main work, which consisted mainly of vacuuming (hair, hair, everywhere hair) and pouring Coke out of bottles (I can’t really drink much soda after my Nissen Fundoplication surgery eight months ago, but Korean delivery guys always bring a Coke bottle with the food) then taking the bottles out to recycling.
Another task was to throw away the things I don’t really need, so I spent a good deal of time dividing my stack of books into the “Keep” pile and the “Sell To the Used Bookstore” pile. Some darn good books ended up on the “Sell” pile, like Kazuro Ishiguro’s “Remains of the Day,” Thomas Hardy’s “Return of the Native” (but I’m holding on to his “Trumpet-Major”), and Jon Krauker’s “Into the Wild,” which I recently read and quite possibly instigated tonight’s clean-up on a subconscious level (Throw away material goods; simplify your life; walk into the wild with nothing that can’t fit in your backpack!). They’re all great books, but they’re not quite at the level of those books that I know I’ll be reading and re-reading for the rest of my life. At the top of that list in Endless Love, written by Scott Spencer.
I read “Endless Love” when I was seventeen (the same age as the protagonist, David Axelrod). I had found a used copy at a thrift store and bought it for 89 cents. And the book changed my life–for better or worse–to the very core.
To describe the book in simple terms, it’s a love story. The teenaged David falls in love with a girl named Jade Butterfield, and they fall into a love so intense that it both inspires and frightens those around them, which finally leads Jade’s parents to try to separate them, if only for a short while. David can’t bear the idea of separation, even one that’s temporary, and he makes a rash decision to bring himself back into the Butterfield’s good graces. The unintended result is disaster, and the book subsequently describes David dealing with the shattered pieces of his life (not very well) and trying at all cost to find where Jade is (he’s more successful here).
“Endless Love” is a love story, but it’s one without fantasy bullshit. It speaks to the power of love, but it also refuses to look away from the very horror of love. Scott Spencer never turns David into an ideal romantic hero or archetype; most readers likely find him both remarkable and grotesteque. There’s a great conversation between David and Jade (one of many) when he frankly admits that his love for her is greatly based on self-absorption, if not downright selfishness:
Jade: Oh, you’re just going to argue. You don’t see what I see. And it’s just as well. I need a nonegotistical man. They’re hard to find, you know.
David: I’m not nonegotistical.
Jade: Pretty much.
David: Not at all. No matter what happened, and no matter what people said about me, I wanted to be with you.
Jade: That’s not egotism.
David: Yes, it is. Because I thought I deserved it. Me and no one else.
Jade: You’re going to make me cry.
Jade: Because you touch me where it’s always tender.
I read “Endless Love” before I had experienced love myself, and it left an imprint on my heart that set in stone what kind of love my heart would be willing to accept for the remainder in my life. Nothing casual. None of “he seems nice; let’s try it and see how this goes.” No, I wanted nothing less than a clashing of destinies that would hurt just as bad as it felt good. I wanted every fiber of my being turned inside out. Is it really a surprise that I’m single now? Not. At. All.
None of the book’s life-changing power made it over to the film version, which is notable for only two things: 1) the painting-like beauty of Brooke Shield’s face & 2) the title song performed by Diana Ross and Lionel richie. “Endless Love” the song had standard love-is-wonderful lyrics, which really had nothing to do with the novel’s story of love leading to insanity and mass destruction. Still, if you take the novel out of the equation, the song works for its sweetness and strong vocals from Diana (thin but very pretty voice) and Lionel (the man can SING).
So if you equate love with Hallmark sentiments as well as flowers and rainbows, feel free to download the song and sing along. But if you want to dig deeper and darker into this thing called love and aren’t afraid to see what’s in your own heart, then go on and read the book. You may never be the same again. I know I wasn’t.
P.S. I’ll upload “Endless Love” (the song) later today. It’s 5:45 A.M., and I’ve gotta get some shut-eye before I do anything… EDIT: Done and done.