True love is “simple love” and other things I learned from Nicholas Sparks

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The Nicholas Sparks theme is “true love conquers and endures all.”

It’s true: every Nicholas Sparks novel (and every movie based on the book) is “emotional pornography” at its finest. Does this stop me from enjoying the melodramatic books and the movies? Hell, nooooo.

I’ve noticed this before — it’s like there’s a story template for A Walk to Remember, The Notebook, Message in a Bottle, Dear John, Nights in Rodanthe, The Lucky One, The Last Song. There’s a mould for the Sparks Man at Sparks Woman. And there’s always the “Love Sage”, some old and wise character who advises the Sparks Man/Woman to open up to love in order to live. Settings have a template as well — somehow, there’s a romantic or wistful scene near a body of water like a beach, river, lake, the high seas. Somewhere, somehow, someone will die. Somewhere, somehow, some complication will let the tears flow.

The Nicholas Sparks narrative (yes, singular, there’s only one pulsing through all his stories) is explained in detail in this article by Anne Helen Petersen. Long read, but  worth it. Found myself nodding along to most parts.

“The Sparks narrative offers a life — and a love story nested within it — that extracts its protagonist from (life’s many) concerns and consolidates the demands of life into one, simple task: Open yourself to love, and love in return.”

“It’s not, then, that women are simply suckers for love. They’re suckers for simplicity.”

“Some people love an action melodrama like The Avengers because it promises a world in which good guys beat bad guys — a world safe for the mere mortal. Others flock to a romantic melodrama like The Notebook for its equally over-the-top, yet no less compelling, embodiment of a love with the ability to structure the world and endure within it.”

“One mode scares us and then saves us; the other cuts our heart open and then heals it. Neither scenario — or any movie, for that matter — can possibly fix the fractured world. But both provide the sort of elusive yet necessary reassurance that a better, safer, more communicative, and compassionate world is one worth striving for.”

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