Love and heartbreak are typically the stuff of lengthy conversations, hours of analysis and reams of paper. But hot on the heels of their first bestselling compilation, "Not Quite What I Was Expecting: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure,"the editors of Smith Magazine have turned their attenuated attention to matters of love, asking contributors to distill their love lives into six precious words. Summing up a life, a romance or a trauma so succinctly may seem like an abomination out of the Twitter generation, but it actually dates back to the 1920s, when Ernest Hemingway bet colleagues that he could write a complete short story in just six words. The result, "For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never Worn," he reportedly called his best work.
There's more heartbreak than love in the slim volume, but there's plenty of irreverence, too. Model Janice Dickinson's entry consists of just a string of F-words. Gay sex columnist Dan Savage notes that his job requires contemplating a sex act he finds distasteful. What's most remarkable is the range of sentiments, from the trivial to the profound, that can be expressed in the six-word form. "I had no opinions on the number six two years ago," says editor Larry Smith. "Now I have lots. There's a certain balance in it. And getting down to the essence of who you are in only six words is appealing. It's goofy, but it works." Smith's own contribution to the book (see box) is an allusion to the 13 months his future wife spent in a federal prison on an old drug-related charge that caught up with her years later. No conjugal visits were permitted, he says, so "when you have three hours a week to spend with your fiancée, buying her a Coke from a vending machine is like an act of love." So is explaining it with a few well-chosen words.