What if love affairs only provide momentary cessations of heartache? What if pain is more common than pleasure? What if joy masks suffering? What would life be then?
These questions, rather than being incomprehensible, are simply not considered. Most of the time we don’t bother, since they cannot be placed easily within a common frame of reference. They hint at truths that, even if they correspond to experience, oppose our understanding. Therefore, the questions seem absurd, though the experiences that prompt them are real and exist in memory. They can be shared through stories. And in these stories, for a time, the questions find their place.
This is what Micheline Aharonian Marcom achieves in A Brief History of Yes. She brings light to an idea that seems ever shadowed to thought and manages to draw from it a picture of greater subtlety and more humanity than most, even to an idea as often discussed as love. She presents the image an affair through its negative, in the month’s following the affair’s end, as the novella’s protagonist, a Portuguese-American woman named Maria, in reflecting the year of her affair with her blond-haired, blue-eyed, and rich American lover, struggles to form a cohesion and the withdraw meaning from experience.