The Indoor Report: What to read, watch and listen to this month

By Steve Guntli

Valentine’s day approaches, and love is in the air, but candy and flowers are played out. Why not share some of these classic selections with your special someone?

Book

Stardust (1999)

Neil Gaiman

Tristran Thorne is a love-struck young man living in a high-walled village in a sleepy English countryside. He’s fallen desperately in love with local girl Victoria, who has promised to marry him under the condition that he retrieve a fallen star. Tristran naively sets out into the unguarded world beyond the wall and finds the mythical fallen star, but there’s just one problem: the star is actually a beautiful young woman, and she wants to return to the sky.

Neil Gaiman has always had a gift for subverting fairy tale tropes, but unlike his often dark and gothic other works (“Sandman,” “American Gods”), “Stardust” is unabashedly lighthearted, sweet and romantic. The many subplots, involving witches, sky pirates and fratricidal princes, are amusing enough, but the central triangle between Tristran, Victoria and the star give the novel its heart.

Movie

Before Sunrise (1995)

Directed by Richard Linklater

One of the most wildly romantic movies ever made isn’t a cheesy screwball comedy or a weepy melodrama. “Before Sunrise” captures the essence of new love in a series of long, rambling conversations between two people.

Shaggy Texan tourist Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and elegant French student Celine (Julie Delpy) have a chance meeting on a train and feel an instant connection. When the two reach Jesse’s stop in Vienna, he makes a bold proposition: he wants to keep talking, so she should get off the train with him. She does, and the two continue their sometimes sweet, sometimes silly but always fascinating conversations. Against the beautiful Viennese backdrop, Jesse and Celine fall in love, knowing perfectly well that when the sun comes up they’ll have to go their separate ways.

“Before Sunrise” is the first entry in a trilogy, in which Linklater, Hawke and Delpy revisit these characters every nine years. The subsequent two films (“Before Sunset” and “Before Midnight”) are each masterpieces in their own right, but neither quite captures the wild, romantic abandon of “Before Sunrise.”

Music

“O” (2002)

Damien Rice

Irish singer/songwriter Damien Rice burst onto the scene with this lovely, slow-burning debut. At once achingly romantic, contemplative and full of regret, “O” treats love like an affliction rather than an emotion, but the symptoms are exhilarating and devastating in equal measure.

Rice employs some distinctive background support from the likes of Gregorian monks, opera singers and lovely string arrangements. But the album really shines on his duets with Lisa Hannigan, whose hushed, sensual tones meld perfectly with Rice’s pained, wavering brogue.

“Volcano,” the album’s second track, is an expression of the complexities of modern romance, told from the perspective of two people who are inexorably drawn to one another despite being bad for each other. But while that song explores the dark side of romantic attraction, the entrancing “The Blower’s Daughter,” sweet-natured “Delicate” and vulnerable “Cannonball” tread optimistically into the light.

Each of these titles is available through the Blaine Public Library. To reserve a copy, visit the library or go to wcls.org.

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