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For Your Valentine’s Day Hangover: 10 Literary Love Quotes That Won’t Make You Want to Vomit

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Valerie Michael

Staff Writer

Valerie Michael is a book-ish, outdoors-y, burger-eating, beer-drinking scientist from Pittsburgh, PA. She is obsessed with books and hiking in equal measure and she’d be happy to show you pictures on her iPhone of her two dogs. Follow her on Twitter @valeriexcm.

Valentine’s Day has this way of bringing out the most nauseating of all love quotes. These quotes are not that. None of this “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” nonsense (sorry to all you Wuthering Heights fans).

1. A poem about a beautiful moment of suddenly recognizing love through the calmness of daily life:

“Sometimes hidden from me

in daily custom and in trust,
so that I live by you unaware
as by the beating of my heart,

suddenly you flare in my sight,
a wild rose blooming at the edge
of thicket, grace and light
where yesterday was only shade,

and once more I am blessed, choosing

again what I chose before.”

-Wendell Berry, The Selected Poetry of Wendell Berry

2. A double dose of Margaret Atwood, telling it like it is:

“But this is wrong, nobody dies from lack of sex. It’s lack of love we die from.”

-Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

“I knew what love was supposed to be: obsession with undertones of nausea.”

-Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye

3. On the nature of the heart:

“There are betrayals in war that are childlike compared with our human betrayals during peace. The new lovers enter the habits of the other. Things are smashed, revealed in a new light. This is done with nervous or tender sentences, although the heart is an organ of fire.”

-Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

4. Because what is more romantic than the love of books:

“She read books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live.”

-Annie Dillard, The Living

5. On the holiness of love:

“Love is holy because it is like grace–the worthiness of its object is never really what matters.”

-Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

6. Mary Oliver on being chosen by love:

“Not anyone who says, “I’m going to be
careful and smart in matters of love,”
who says, “I’m going to choose slowly,”
but only those lovers who didn’t choose at all
but were, as it were, chosen
by something invisible and powerful and uncontrollable
and beautiful and possibly even
unsuitable —
only those know what I’m talking about
in this talking about love.”

-Mary Oliver, Felicity

7. From the queen herself:

“Don’t ever think I fell for you, or fell over you. I didn’t fall in love, I rose in it.”

-Toni Morrison, Jazz

8. On love’s ability to change along with us:

“We can change, evolve, and transform our own conditioning. We can choose to move like water rather than be molded like clay. Life spirals in and then spirals out on any given day. It does not have to be one way, one truth, one voice. Nor does love have to be all or nothing. Neither does power. What is positive and what is negative is not absolute.”

-Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds

9. Gabriel Garcia Marquez writes sweepingly of love, but this is one of my favorites:

“I always had understood that dying of love was mere poetic license.”

-Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Memories of My Melancholy Whores

10. Because love is, after all, a miracle:

“This was love: a string of coincidences that gathered significance and became miracles.” 

-Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun