Dear Cupid

V-Day is right around the corner, so let’s get to the letters.


Longtime readers of my 11-month-old column know about my annual Valentine’s week tradition of answering love-related questions from readers. People want romantic advice, and when you want romantic advice, who better to turn to than a noir-light writer? Exactly.

John M. from Fairfax asks:

Should I read a poem, penned by my own hand, to my beloved this Valentine’s Day?

Oh, God, no. No. That sounds terrible.

Sherry P. from Annapolis writes:

What’s a romantic book to give to my husband?

Listen, a lot of people are going to recommend Fifty Shades of Grey, especially since the movie is coming out soon. I started reading the book and never finished it, so I don’t feel like I can competently comment on anything other than its use of the “argh.” Apparently, the protagonist of the story likes to cry out “argh” during sex, which is perfect if your idea of romance is dinner at Long John Silver’s followed by some weird pirate role-play. When I got to “argh,” I pretty much didn’t feel the desire to read anything else. I was done about four shades in.

Not to sound snootie, but the most romantic book I’ve come across is the New Yorker’s anthology of love stories, Nothing but You. Updike, Munro, Beattie, Nabokov, the list of writers in this collection is amazing. And the story by Nabokov, “The Circle,” is BEAUTIFUL. Check this line out:

“A light crunch of footfalls detached itself from the even rustle of the night. Her arrival, her incoherent speech, her nearness struck him as miraculous; the sudden intimate touch of her cold nimble fingers amazed his chastity. A huge, rapidly ascending moon burned through the trees.”

Are you kidding me? Who writes like that? That line was a pleasure to retype. My fingers have shivers. So, yeah, get that book, or maybe something by Pablo Neruda if you like feeling emotions and lack irony. Just don’t do what John M. from Fairfax suggested. Cripes.

Anthony R. from Washington, DC, asks:

What’s a romantic gift for a writer?

Great question, Anthony. A lot of people will tell you that writers like expensive pens. Those people are idiots. You might as well set $200 on fire.

No, wait, give that $200 to the writer. Ninety-nine percent of writers don’t make enough money off their books to support themselves, let alone a family. And writers are always terrible at managing their money. Right now, I have $26.13 in my checking account, and that’s because I transferred over everything in savings. Give them the $200. It’s romantic enough. And then he or she will probably blow it on a stupid pen. It’s the thought that counts.

Pete C. from Tacoma, WA, asks:

Should I follow my instincts when it comes to gift-giving?

Not in your case, Pete. WHO THROWS THE BALL FROM THE ONE-YARD LINE WHEN YOU HAVE THE BEST RUNNING BACK IN FOOTBALL? YOU’RE WHAT’S WRONG WITH AMERICA.

Marsha B. from Arlington has a question:

What do writers like to eat?

Compliments. And they never fill up.

Zack F. from Silver Spring would like to know:

I have a date with a bibliophile, and I want to sound pretentious without actually reading an entire book. Any advice?

Ah, a fan of the New York Review of Books. Kidding. But, seriously, here’s what you do.

Find a book that’s too densely complicated for anyone to possibly understand. When your bibliophile starts talking, steer the conversation thusly:

YOU: Well, have you read Under the Volcano?

BIBLIOPHILE: Oh, yes!

YOU: Did you like it?

BIBLIOPHILE: I, I don’t know.

YOU (smug): Same here.

See how easy that is? And, best of all, lying at this early stage of your relationship can only help if you eventually get married. You’ll need the practice.

And, on that note, thanks for your letters, everyone! Happy Valentine’s Day!

(As a side note, if you need to get the taste of Valentine’s Day out of your mouth, then come to Dames at Dusk in Washington, DC, on March 1st. Ten badass female writers read their crime fiction, and badass jazz singer Sara Jones is going to provide some noir-themed music throughout the evening. Kramerbooks, March 1, at 7 p.m. There will be booze.)

E.A. Aymar’s debut thriller, I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead, was published by Black Opal Books in November 2013. His column, Decisions & Revisions, appears monthly in the Independent.

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