' We are all walking around this city with our hearts sadly swimming in our chests, like dying fish on the surface of a still pond. It ' s enough to make you give up entirely. ' ' from Instant Love
But we don ' t give up. We keep trying. We ' re either too stupid to learn from our mistakes or we honestly believe that the next time will be different; it ' s hard to say which. Driven by the mad hopefulness that is part of the human condition, we are constantly falling in and out of love with a slightly different version of the person who came before. Jami Attenberg chronicles those exact moments with heartbreaking realism in her powerful debut, Instant Love.
Told through the eyes of three young women and their friends and lovers, Instant Love explores what it means to be in love, what it means to be lonely, and what it means to be both at the same time. Holly turns to computer dating to find love even as she thinks wistfully of a former boyfriend who loved her well and fed her ice cream. Maggie recounts the story of her one crazy summer to her disbelieving husband and feels the distance between them grow wider than the void across their king ' sized bed. And Sarah Lee remembers the one who got away and the one she ran away from, all the while moving toward the one she can actually love.
As Holly, Maggie, and Sarah Lee move through the rituals of modern love, they have to decide who is worth taking a chance on in a world where things don ' t fall into place easily, people are often difficult, and disappointment is the rule. Through their stories, Attenberg presents a rare, honest look at love.
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June 13, 2006
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Excerpt from Instant Love by Jami Attenberg
THE PERFECT TRIANGLE
Holly is getting her makeup done by the burnout girl she befriended at work. They're in the bathroom at the back of the pharmacy, and Shelly's dusting one perfect pastel-colored triangle on each eyelid. Same as hers. She's been staring at Shelly for two nights a week, 5:00ý9:00 PM, most of senior year, and has fallen deeply in love with her makeup.
Holly has tried to make the same perfect triangles herself at home, usually with Seventeen magazine spread out next to her on the bathroom counter. She looks at the photos and diagrams and memorizes the quick tips, muttering directions under her breath as she stares into the mirror, but it's no use. Her eyes end up looking more like Picasso's than Madonna's. It turns out she's no good at blending in the makeup. She's going to suck at blending in for the rest of her life.
Tonight she's going on a date, that's why all the makeupping. She's going out with a boy named Christian who is nineteen and who likes the Smiths and the Cure and New Order. Holly is seventeen and likes New Order and Echo and the Bunny-men and Joy Division. She knows she should like the Smiths, but Morrissey seems like such a whiny turd. Holly has lied to Christian about this, because he worships Morrissey. Morrissey changed his life forever, that's what Christian says. He's a vegetarian now and everything. Meat is murder, he says.
Shelly likes Aerosmith and Judas Priest.
That's how Holly and Christian met, because of music. They were both wearing the same New Order T-shirt, the one with the Brotherhood album cover (which is a classic, even though it is only a few years old), when Christian came in the pharmacy to pick up his father's heart medicine. No one else wears those shirts in her hometown. Holly lives in a town so small she can barely breathe. That's the joke, she's heard it said before: If you want to breathe, go to the next town over.