"I Wrote This Book Because I Love You": A Pointed Ode to Love
Tim Kreider’s I Wrote This Book Because I Love You was given to me as a gift, and a gift it truly is. It’s an intimate, insulated meditation on love, small in scope and big on feeling. Kreider’s observations are keen and incisive; his prose is graceful and often lovely. Across twelve essays, Kreider lithely vaults through the many relationships he’s had in his life, from girlfriends to psychologists to cats. Kreider distills profound insights from each relationship, without ever slipping into didacticism.
Most moving is the liberalness with which Kreider gives and defines love. He loves all of his essays’ subjects—the collection’s title tells us so. And while he loves them in different ways, that difference doesn’t affect the quality or the integrity of the love itself. Kreider does not love his mother and his student and his closest female friend in the same ways, but he loves them all the same.
A collection of personal essays about relationships could easily be dull, but Kreider’s gets creative not only with content but also with form. The book begins, for example, with a dramatis personae. Certain essays are marked with an asterisk, so his mother doesn't read them. The most impressive, sprawling essay in the book, “The Strange Situation,” recounts Kreider’s participation as an infant in a scientific study, so naturally, it’s organized like one, complete with Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion sections.
Not every essay raises the scalpel to a specific relationship. One of the pieces that consistently leaves me slack-jawed is “The Feast of Pain,” in which, in five short pages, Kreider ponders the major suckage that is being alive sometimes. He recalls a man he saw have a heart attack in broad daylight; as EMTs wheeled him away, he moaned out, “Oh my god… This sucks… What the fuck?” “That guy,” writes Kreider, “had spoken for all of us suffering mortals, cursing feebly against the dying of the light.” “The Feast of Pain” is one of the most astute, concise, and poignant essays I’ve ever read—and I likely will ever read.
It’s refreshing to read a collection of love stories that don’t hinge on romance. Case in point: Kreider’s longest relationship has been with his cat, to whom he is unconditionally and shamefully faithful. Kreider and his feline have different love languages, to say the least. “Devotion,” he writes, “is no less heartfelt when its object is absurdly incommensurate to it.” This is a classic Kreider line—a little bit funny, a little bit pretty, and unnervingly true.
I could go on. In a perfect world, I would take you through I Wrote This Book Because I Love You page by page, pointing out my favorite sentences and gushing over how funny and smart this Kreider guy is. I’ll save you that; I gather by now you understand how much I love this collection. As Kreider writes in the essay “Orientation,” my feelings for this book exist within “one human arena in which I [can] exercise a form of devotion safely firewalled off from desire. A form, really, of love.”
At the height of my Kreider-mania, I lent I Wrote This Book Because I Love You to a very beautiful boy. I might as well have whispered as I handed it to him, “I Lent This Book Because I Love You.” I guess I also Wrote This Review Because I Love You, reader. Recommending books, I suppose, is my love language. My copy of I Wrote This Book Because I Love You is back in my possession now, well-worn and torn at the corners from countless nights of thumbing and re-thumbing through it. I can only hope you’ll soon be doing the same.