17 February 2013

A Virtual Love Story in Two Parts

On one of the British news type blogs I follow, I saw that David Tennant would be lending his voice to a radio drama based on the books by Daniel Glattauer. (Okay so fine, it was probably that David Tennant fan site www.david-tennant.com. Whatever. Judge all you want.) I'll take a book recommendation anywhere, man. 
I did some research and bribed the interlibrary loan library assistant to get me both Love Virtually and its sequel Every Seventh Wave by German author Daniel Glattauer.

One day in January,Emmi Rothner attempts to email a magazine to cancel her subscription. After she doesn't receive a reply, she sends another email. And after that, another. Finally, Leo Leike responds informing her that she has emailed a personal address and not the magazine, but wishes her all the best in cancelling the subscription. Some slight embarrassment ensues and the matter is dropped. Emmi sends a mass-email to her contacts list...which somehow now includes Leo Leike. And so, their email relationship begins. 
They start with just exchanging niceties, and then that slowly progresses to personal things: life, love and everything in between.

I had a bit of trouble with the format at first. The emails (in the book at least) are not dated, and sometimes they don't sign their names. Once the characters got to know each other a bit more, the emails became easier to read. 
I really thought that the book(s) would be a bit tiresome. To the reader, it is all taking place in front of a computer screen. It would be like You've Got Mail, except it would be filmed in split screen: Tom on one side, Brinkley at his feet, Meg on the other, as Frank roams around the apartment. And that is all the action. However, it wasn't as boring as all that. In fact, it was very interesting to see how a story can evolve with so little location change and physical action. All of the action that happens is emotional. An email is either ignored or answered. One character sends multiple emails without reply until finally the shortest answer comes through. There are weeks in between emails; passive aggressive behavior at its best. 

But of course, my thought at the end of all of this was, "Gee, two people met online, hardly ever saw each other and yet...they seem perfect together. How does that even happen?" 
What is love? How do we find it? How do we know it when we find it? What is the main factor in deciding love? In these books, it most certainly isn't looks but intellect and words. Words can hurt, but certain words, put together with the utmost of care can...I don't know. I wanted to say "create" but now I'm wondering if that is what I mean or if I'm just being pretentious about the whole thing. I think when it all comes down, Emmi and Leo's relationship is almost 100% about communication. They email all the time. No phone. No "let's grab coffee." No running into each other at the grocery, church or mall. Just email. And though some relationships can be online or through letters and phone calls, we often omit things. Heck, we often omit things when we are sitting across from the person we are talking with! In these books, Glauttauer doesn't let his characters get away with that. There is a lot of "if you don't mind me saying, I think you are going about this the wrong way" and "what were you thinking? That probably wasn't the best choice, was it?". They call each other out on attitudes, choices, and just life in general. That alone makes this book different, at least in my book it makes it different. 

I have been doing this "thing" where I'll read book one in a series but promise myself that I don't have to finish the series if I don't want to. This was the first book I broke that resolve for. Granted, there are only two books, but I had to find out what happened. For that reason alone, I would recommend these books. Also, reading Leo's emails in David's voice? A total win. 

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