If you're reading this, congrats (!), you've taken John Waters' infamous words to heart.
Let's all give ourselves a hand for falling for someone who reads, then let's scratch our heads and try to figure out what to get them for Valentine's Day. If you've already wrapped up something up in heart-patterned wrapping paper, good for you, you're ahead of the game. But if you've waited until the last minute, never fear, I've got you covered.
One of my favorite way to gift-give to my literary-minded loved ones is to pair a nice edition of a book with something unexpected, delightful, and tangentially related to said book (I once gifted my fiancé a brand spankin' new translation of Virgil's Aeneid plus a trip to a tattoo parlor for a forearm piece of Aeneas carrying his father on his back from burning Troy).
I won't tell you which one of these present-pairings I'm getting rush delivered — praise be to Amazon Prime! — for Valentine's Day, but there's a book + surprise gift combo for your most beloved bibliophile down below.
Caitlin Keegan's Shakespeare's Love Sonnets + Shakespeare Love Mug
This mug, brought to us by the ever-clever Unemployed Philosophers Guild, is LITERALLY called the "Shakespeare Love Mug." It's perfect. It also happens to go perfectly with this edition of Shakespeare's Love Sonnets featuring poems selected and whimsically illustrated by Caitlin Keegan.
Yes, there are many, many, many editions of Shakespeare's various love poems and sonnets, but Keegan's edition is so lovely that it gets my Valentine's Day vote. As for an accompanying love note or card, my personal favorite from Shakespeare's repertoire is Sonnet 104. It's a testament to love that endures through the ages and, unlike some of his other sonnets, it doesn't reveal an angsty, disgruntled message if you read closely.
To me, fair friend, you never can be old,For as you were, when first your eye I ey'd,Such seems your beauty still. Three winters coldHave from the forests shook three summers' pride, Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turn'd In process of the seasons have I seen, Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burn'd,Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green.Ah! yet doth beauty, like a dial-hand,Steal from his figure and no pace perceiv'd;So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand,Hath motion and mine eye may be deceiv'd: For fear of which, hear this, thou age unbred; Ere you were born, was beauty's summer dead.
John Keats' Endymion + Flowerbomb by Viktor&Rolf
John Keats' epic poem, named for Endymion, the shepherd beloved by by a Greek Goddess, wasn't a big hit when it was first published — a review by John Wilson Croker in 1818 went so far as to question if the author of the poem was really John Keats, writing, "if that be his real name, for we almost doubt that any man in his senses would put his real name to such a rhapsody" — but lives in infamy for these few lines:
What's more perfect for Valentine's day than a poem brimming with lovely pastoral imagery? A poem brimming with lovely pastoral imagery and a perfume full of floral, (dare I say pastoral?) notes like Flowerbomb (for the ladies) or Spicebomb (for the gentlemen) by Viktor&Rolf.
Flowerbomb features notes of jasmine, orchid, and rose. The more masculine Spicebomb has a few notes that can be linked directly to poem as well including balsam fir. I smell like a goddamn bouquet when I wear Flowerbomb and my guy loves Spicebomb which has a woody scent that he adores.
You can purchase the scents in body lotion, aftershave lotion, body wash, or traditional perfume form. Saks Fifth Avenue offers Saturday shipping and most department stores carry the fragrances. Finally, this passage below serves as a reference for both scents (if you're inclined to include a card).
Such the sun, the moon, Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon For simple sheep; and such are daffodils 15With the green world they live in; and clear rills That for themselves a cooling covert make ’Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake, Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose bloom.
Christopher Marlowe's Dido, Queen of Carthage + Red Hot Heart Candies
Christopher Marlowe doesn't get nearly enough acclaim on account of being one of the contemporaries of the bard to end all bards (who also makes an appearance on this list). It seems unfair that his play, Dido, Queen of Carthage, which brings me to tears every time I see a live production, doesn't have an audience as wide and adoring as those of Shakespeare's tragedies.
The inspiration behind this pairing comes from the American Shakespeare Center's Blackfriars' Playhouse production of Dido, Queen of Carthage, which featured a live performance of related chart-topping hits (from the 80's, 90's, and today) before the play commenced. If you're not acquainted with Marlowe's retelling of Aeneas's drive-by romance with the Carthaginian Queen, all you really need to know is that things start hot and heavy and end even hotter (and, emotionally, heavier). To give you an idea, this is the song the Blackfriars actors performed before the play began:
The man that I do eye where'er I am ; Whose amorous face, like Paean's, sparkles fire, When as he butts his beams on Flora's bed. Prometheus hath put on Cupid's shape, And I must perish in his burning arms.
Ovid's Metamorphoses + Thematically Appropriate Luxury Candy by Sugarfina
While the Greek Gods weren't known for pursing the mortal objects of their affections with the truest intentions (or the best end results), they were an amorous bunch as Ovid points out to no end in his Metamorphoses. Over 200 myths are captured in his epic poem — do your beloved a favor and go with Stanley Lombardo's translation — which happens to pair perfectly with these three luxury candies from Sugarfina.
For the amorous, oft-drunk God-of-hedonistic-orgies (but also fine art!) enthusiast, Dionysus Walnuts — imported from Greece and dipped in dark chocolate — are a fine and funny choice. The Dionysus Walnuts aren't as on-the-nose as Aphrodite Strawberries — dipped in milk chocolate and covered with speckled sugar — but are less obscure than the Athena Black Cherries (dipped in dark chocolate and coated in a thin candy shell).
E.E. Cummings' Erotic Poems + What I Love About You Fill-in-the-Blank Journal
Let's face it — no matter how much some of us love to read, we can't all muster up a love poem, but who doesn't want a love poem from their lover? This itty bitty fill-in-the-blank journal combines the thoughtfulness, intimacy, and tactical reading experience of a love poem and packs a seriously sentimental punch. I surprised my guy with a copy of it for Valentine's Day last year and he promptly scooted over to Barnes and Noble and did the same.
Out of all of the love poem collections that I could have rounded off this roundup with, I chose E.E. Cummings' Erotic Poems, editing by George James Firmage. I think it's a nuanced and unexpected (sorry, Pablo Neruda) and has the potential to surprise — and please — any book lover.
That's a literary, loved-up, two-presents-are-better-than-one wrap, folks! Now, it's up to you to celebrate the beheading of a celibate saint the best way you know how.