Just in time for Valentine’s Day, ordinary Americans share their stories of love in All There Is.The concept behind the nonprofit StoryCorps is simple: Sit down in a recording booth with someone important to you and talk with him or her for 40 minutes. “When you’re listening to someone and asking them, ‘Who are you? How do you want to be remembered? What have you learned in life?’ you’re telling them they matter,” says Dave Isay, the founder of StoryCorps. “That is a profound message to give another human being.” One free CD recording of each interview goes home with the participants; a second recording is preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
StoryCorps’ archive of more than 30,000 interviews has already generated two New York Times best-selling books: Listening Is an Act of Love: A Celebration of American Life from the StoryCorps Project (2007) and Mom: A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps (2010). For their latest collection, All There Is: Love Stories from StoryCorps ($25, Penguin Press), Isay selected 37 moving reflections on love found and lost. “What emerges from the StoryCorps interviews are the great themes of human existence,” Isay says. “Love is the greatest theme of all.”
All StoryCorps recording booths are well stocked with tissues; you may want to grab a box, too, as you read about the couple whose 57-year marriage started with a blind date, a three-day courtship and a $20 honeymoon, during which they lived on “hamburgers, beer and love.” A same-sex couple shares their joy at being able to legally marry more than 36 years after they met. And high school sweethearts recall how they reunited after 40 years apart.
“The book speaks to what StoryCorps is all about: It reminds you to say the things you want to say, now, to the people who matter to you,” Isay says. “Don’t wait. Clear out the white noise and muck that surrounds us, and focus on what is important and the people you love.”