I’ve been trying to mix and match pleasure reading with more dense reading material. It’s mind blowing how quickly I can turn pages in some beach read after staring at one textbook paragraph for ten minutes.
“Juliet’s Answer” has been a recent break from more dense material – it is touted as a man’s version of “Eat, Pray, Love”. Guy loves girl, girl does not love guy back. He takes off to Italy in search of meaning and love. He magically finds both. If you are rolling your eyes, trust me – I beat you to it.
Here’s what I learned from this book that is super duper awesome cool. “Il Club di Giulietta” described in the book is real. There is a club of volunteers in Verona, Italy, who painstakingly respond to every single letter addressed to Juliet (the one from Romeo and Juliet). The tragedy took place in Verona, if you recall.
Glenn, the author of the book (it’s a memoire, so technically there are no characters), writes his own letter to Juliet, but never sends it – instead, he meets Desiree and falls in love. The plot connection here with the original play is that of unsent/undelivered letter. Juliet wrote Romeo a letter, letting him in on her plan of only pretending to be dead, however, the letter does not find him, and so, he kills himself, as Juliet wakes up mere moments later.
Now, apart from the obvious “I desperately need to communicate my plan to pretend-kill myself, so my lover does not do the same” purpose, I do wonder whether the role of most letters is completed as soon as the letter itself is written. I have written many letters – most as exercises, and some, more dubious than others – letter to my parents, to my young self, a break-up letter with old self, angry letters to lovers, and on, and on, and on. None of these were ever sent. Yet writing itself was probably the best part.
Did you know that writing was therapeutic? Not in the obvious “dear diary” sense, but in actual “research-backs-this-up” sense? Some of the studies I have done in my undergraduate and graduate degrees was based on expressive writing research. It seems that writing about our experiences helps us to put our experiences in words, into coherent narratives, which are then easier to process.
It is not then surprising that hundreds of heartbroken lovers express their woes on paper, and send off those notes to Verona.
“Dear Juliet, I love him, but he does not love me. What should I do?”. “Dear Juliet, my husband of fifty years has passed away. I miss him terribly. How do I go on?”. “Dear Juliet, my wife told me that she was no longer in love with me. Now what?”.
Volunteers at the club sort letters into languages, and then respond to each one. Of course, as Glenn himself points out in the book, getting an answer is almost besides the point. It is the writing of the letter that helps the writer. Or, perhaps, writing the letter, AND knowing that someone is listening. Want to write a letter to Juliet? You can.
Meanwhile, I am considering adding “respond to Juliet’s letters at Il Club di Giulietta in Verona, Italy” to my bucket list. This is just random enough and weird enough to quality. Italian is already in.