Just ahead of Valentine’s Day, we visited the tomb of a poet who wrote often of love.

The 14th century Persian poet Hafez is buried in Shiraz, the city where he lived almost 700 years ago. He remains venerated in Iran, even though he wrote of romance and other topics that are not obviously embraced in the modern-day Islamic Republic.

One of his lines: “Oh Cup-bearer, set my glass afire with the light of wine!”

We reached the tomb of Hafez — the pen name for the man born Khwaja Shamsuddīn Muhammad Hafez e-Shirazi — at the end of the day. The setting sun still shone on the mountainsides just beyond a courtyard. The poet’s tomb is at the center, beneath a roof held up by pillars.

People placed their hands on the carved stone. One was a woman wearing loose black clothes, a purple knitted cap and a Wilson-brand backpack. She kept her hands there, both of them, for what seemed like several minutes.

Afterward, we asked her what she was doing.

“It’s really a thing of my heart,” she said. “I think you have to connect with him to understand what happened with us, between us.”

Firoozeh Mohammad-Zamani said that when her hands were on the tomb, she was having a conversation with Hafez. They talk a lot.

In Iran, A Poet’s 700-Year-Old Verses Still Set Hearts Aflame

Photos: JTB Photo/UIG via Getty Images and Steve Inskeep/NPR

Ich am Geoffrey Chaucer, and my litel poeme the Parliament of Foweles was the first to combyne the peanut buttir of Februarye the XIVth wyth the milk chocolate of wooing. And so Ich feel responsible to helpe wyth sum advyce on thys daye. Ich am heere wyth my bookes of lore and romaunce to answer yower questions, the which NPR hath pluckid from the great churninge ocean of sense and nonsense that on mappes of old ys called "The Twytter."

Love advice from Chaucer, via NPR.

Romantic love is a drive — a basic mating drive, not the sex drive. The sex drive gets you out there for a whole range of partners. Romantic love enables you to focus your mating energy on just one at a time, conserve your mating energy and start the mating process with a single individual.

What sums it up best is something that is said by Plato over 2,000 years ago. He said the God of love lives in the state of need. It is a need. It is an urge. It is a homeostatic imbalance. Like hunger and thirst, it’s almost impossible to stamp out.… Love is in us. It’s deeply embedded in the brain. Our challenge is to understand each other.

—  from @explore-blog: “Biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, author of Why We Love — one of these 5 essential books on the psychology of love — in a fascinating episode of NPR’s TED Radio Hour exploring how we find love.”
Five Unromantic Comedies For Valentine's Day Non-Inspiration

Originally posted by dontmesswiththeleprechaun

Sure, people fight about superhero movies and sci-fi movies and who was the best James Bond. But if you want to see some deeply felt disagreement, get in a fight about romantic comedies. Or, if you don’t care to, just enjoy this Twitter debate I had a couple of weeks ago with actor and comedian Kumail Nanjiani, who has almost as many opinions about such things as I do. (Almost. And I really do think we should have a podcast called “Isn’t It Romantic?” where we fight about this weekly, because I think it would take a long time to run out of ideas.)

Part of what animates these discussions is that what you think of a particular movie often springs from what you consider romantic in the first place — and, maybe, from your sense of who deserves a happy ending. If you ask Kumail, the answer is “not Julia Roberts in Notting Hill.” If you ask me, the answer is “not whoever wrote Winona Ryder as a dying hat designer in Autumn In New York.” And there’s no doubt that some romantic comedies are … not very romantic. 

Let us take a tour.

Ann Leckie’s debut novel, the space opera Ancillary Justice, has won the prestigious Hugo Award for best novel. The book, which is narrated by the artificial intelligence of a starship that has been transplanted into a single body, has been sweeping up many of the major sci-fi and fantasy awards, including the Nebula and Arthur C. Clarke awards. In a review for NPR, Genevieve Valentine wrote, “A space opera that skillfully handles both choruses and arias, Ancillary Justice is an absorbing thousand-year history, a poignant personal journey, and a welcome addition to the genre.”

Other winners of this year’s Hugo include John Chu’s “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” for best short story and Charles Stross’ Equoid for best novella.

More book news here.
Need A Little Valentine's Day Perspective? These 3 Romances Will Do The Trick
Reviewer Ericka Brooks loves romance novels, but she felt like there was something missing in her collection. So she went looking for books with characters from all different backgrounds.

Like many romance readers Ericka Brooks has a list of authors whose new releases are always on her shopping list. But this winter she’s been looking for new (to her) novels that reflect the people she sees around her. Ericka wanted to read books by authors of color. She also looked for interracial relationships, protagonists from different cultures, and class differences without power imbalances (the Women of Color in Romance website was a great resource). Here are a few that she found.