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Romanticising friendship comes easily. Friends are those special companions who aren’t family but, at their best, sustain us in similar ways; and, unlike one’s birth family, they are chosen, which also speaks to the greater freedoms and solidarity that friendships afford. The history buried deep in the word friend, related as it is to both love and free, should come as no surprise.
As with all human relationships, the reality of friendship is complex and varied. We have BFFs who last for less time than the latest teenage fad. We can become friends on Facebook at the click of a button and can unfriend with the same ease. There are friends with benefits, frenemies, and bromances, and there are fair-weather friends and friends in high places. And, inevitably, there are toxic friendships.
The 21 stories and essays in Litro Magazine’s Friendship issue show the complexity and variety of this universal, human relationship – the joys that friendships bring as well as the pain when friendships go awry. In “Guests,” four friends who have grown apart realise they cannot rekindle their former relationship. In “We Leave, We Return, We Leave Again,” the narrator questions how well he knew a friend who has died. “Who’s Your Favourite Monkee?” asks whether we can turn our tormentors into our friends. “Insights at LiquorLand,” “Empty Promises,” and “Bric-a-Brac American” explore cross-generational camaraderie. “Routine” and “That Summer” speak to the complications that sexual desire can bring to a friendship. And “Partners” delves into the limits of friendship and the impact of time and bad choices.
Like good friends, these stories and essays are in conversation with each other but also with the pieces in Litro’s last digital-only issue, on the theme of loneliness. Whereas there the disconnect between people predominated, the Friendship issue shows that, despite everything that can go wrong with friends, our instincts for friendship are durable, necessary, and hopeful.