Modern Love, True Stories of Love, Loss, And Redemption, Edited by Daniel Jones
I’ve been a fan and avid reader of the “Modern Love” column since the day I began subscribing to The New York Times a decade ago. These true-life essays are often poignant, stranger than fiction, intimate insights into love in all its iterations. As first-person accounts with dramatic story arcs that practically leap off the page, “Modern Love” begs for a more multidimensional rendering. The New York Times took note, launching a Modern Love podcast. (I’m a subscriber and enthusiastic listener) and recently Amazon Studios’ launched a scripted streaming series also called Modern Love available on Amazon Prime.
After years of reading “Modern Love,” I was thrilled to revisit some of my favorite essays in the book, Modern Love, cleverly timed to release as the title becomes a bonafide brand in the entertainment industry. I predict a Modern Love movie is the next adaptation of the popular column.
Modern Love, the book, is edited by Daniel Jones, editor of the “Modern Love” column in the New York Times since its inception in 2004. Jones also appears weekly on the Modern Love podcast and is a consulting producer for Amazon Prime’s Modern Love.
Jones has a challenging job curating the thousands of published essays into compilation organized by four themes: Somewhere Out There; I Think I Love You; Holding on Through the Curve; and Family Matters.
I was able to read and watch several essays that simultaneously made it into the book and the streaming series including So He Looked LIke Dad. It was Just Dinner Right, a fatherless twenty-something’s misguided attempt at bonding with an older man at work. The relationship implodes when they realize they have different agendas. When Cupid is a Prying Journalist, a confession from the founder of a successful dating site that he was in love once but had his heart broken, plays well on TV too.
Other essays such as In Beyond Divorce and Even Death, a Promise Kept, chronicle internal struggles, less suited for the screen but soul-stirring on the page. In this essay, the author with raw honesty describes her decision to divorce not because the marriage was bad but because it was good. “We were still friends. We didn’t have big fights. All in all, we had a pretty good marriage, and so we spent a lot of time discussing the necessity of divorce,” she writes. Realizing they are “less husband and wife than tenants living in the same house,” the author questions whether a partnership without romance in marriage good enough? “We shared a history and children, but what we had did not quite add up to a marriage.”
My favorite and most memorable essay in the book, Modern Love and is the tear-jerker, You May Want to Marry My Husband,” by best-selling author Amy Krouse Rosenthal, who died of ovarian cancer in 2017, ten days after the essay was published in The New York Times. Amy writes her husband’s dating profile in hopes of finding him a wife after she dies. She plays matchmaker to her soon-to-be widowed husband in hopes that “the right person reads it and finds her husband and another love story begins.”
A brief author bio follows each essay that left me wanting more. Ideally, an epilogue would follow each essay telling me the rest of the author’s love story. Where did they end up and with who and why? Was there a happy ending? Instead, most essays are open-ended leaving the possible outcomes up to my imagination.
Jones, in his introduction to the book, says he picked tales that “pry open the oyster shell of human love to reveal the dark beauty within.” Modern Love chronicles all the messiness of human love, revealing there are no rules that govern the human heart when it comes to romance. You love who you love. That’s all we can ever know. As Jones succinctly says: “That’s love. Anyone can have it. All it requires is a little bravery. Or a lot.”