The actor and novelist answers this eternal question twelve ways, in stories that explore our most complicated emotion
This is a winning collection from an author writing on his favorite topic: love. Each emotionally involving story illuminates a different kind of love: star-crossed, intense, needy, eternal, unrequited, even comical. Gene Wilder's protagonists will be instantly recognizable to his fans: men and women who stumble into relationships that can fulfill them or knock them out cold. Which one it will be depends, often, on the smallest of gestures or reactions. What Is This Thing Called Love includes the stories:
• "In Love for the First Time," about a lover so shy and studious that he's a "funny duck" who has to be led by the hand by his equally inexperienced girlfriend
• "About Being in Love," featuring coarse but charming Buddy Silverman, who yearns for connection but looks for it in exactly the wrong kind of woman
• "The Woman in the Red Hat," who shows a writer who has only explored love in his books what the real thing feels like.
The much beloved star of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory delivers less than his best in his third work of fiction (after The Woman Who Wouldn't), a collection of 12 forgettable stories. Wilder dedicates the book to his late cousin Buddy Silberman, whose romantic adventures are fictionalized in "The Birthday," "My Old Flame," and "The Hollywood Producer." Each of Wilder's stories sketches an infatuation or love affair, and many seem to channel the winsome, golly-gee quality of television from a more innocent era, in which it might have been conceivable for a sexually inexperienced, "tortuously" bashful 21-year-old to lament, "I wish I wasn't such a shy nincompoop." Dialogue is voiced at an unvarying pitch, and characters feel generic, while sexual encounters are described so blandly and awkwardly as to make one cringe. But readers seeking a little treacle may find a saving grace in the book's humble aspirations to give "a little pleasure and a laugh."