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JOHN POWERS (Weekly columnist and author of Sore Winners: American Idols, Patriotic Shoppers, and Other Strange Species in George Bush’s America)

Perhaps the least heralded of great novels (I’d never even heard of it until my friend Tom Carson recommended it), Jean Dutourd’s 1963 tour de force, The Horrors of Love (Greenwood Press), is a dialogue that runs 665 enthralling pages. Two middle-aged men spend a day wandering around Paris and discussing the story of a French politician whose life was destroyed by a very peculiar case of l’amour fou. As they ramble, eat and anatomize almost everything — sex, politics, the conventions of storytelling — their conversation offers one of modernity’s wittiest and most worldly portraits of a love affair. (Out of print, but widely available, used, on the Internet.)

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