"Endless Love" by Scott Spencer

In this 1979 novel, Scott Spencer brazenly presents the first-person chronicle of a tortured-in-love, obsessive young man. In portraying these adventures and misadventures, Mr. Spencer sets the bar improbably high for the type of destructive-behavior fiction he engages in – he proves the remarkable “Endless Love” is no fluke in “A Ship Made of Paper” (2003).

High-school senior David Axelrod loves Jade Butterfield literally to distraction. His passion – their passion – consumes them so completely that when Jade’s father Hugh decides David must not see anyone in the family for 30 days, he sets fire to the family’s home, with the idea that they will at least have to leave the house and be unable to avoid talking to David. This conflagration serves as the perfect metaphor for David’s passion: its speed and heat endanger the entire Butterfield family. It turns out that Jade’s mother Ann is aware of the extreme ardency between the two, and it excites her own nature to more passion than she’d ever known. The family generally knows about the two, however, and accept David, essentially adopting him into their family – for a time, at least.

David’s arson happens on an evening when the entire family, down to the barely-teenaged son Sammy, has dropped LSD for a family trip, and David must work at a Herculean level to rescue them. As punishment David is sent to a rather relaxed, permissive mental institution, where his only concerted effort is to deceive his psychiatrist into thinking he is changing, losing his obsession for Jade. Eventually David worms his way back into the family and resumes his life with Jade, only now he must hide a ghastly secret to do so. The reunion of David and Jade shows them at their passionate and destructive height.

The love-addled David addles the Butterfield family and while breaking parole, indirectly causes an accident that splinters it entirely. The passion the two young people have lights the entire narrative ablaze – and at the end David still, against all reason, keeps his passion for his long-gone lover. Scott Spencer succeeds brilliantly with this difficult task. In this timeless story of dangerous passion, David comes across as unquestioningly focused, blindly self-absorbed, and lucid in his madness. Mr. Spencer has a stunning gift for this theme, and retains an ardent admirer in this reviewer. Be prepared to be completely absorbed when you pick this up.

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  1. Incredible intelligence of the heart.
    even 20 years after I read and reread Scott Spencer.


  2. Thanks for your interest, Cony. I'm on to Spencer's "Willing," and I trust it will measure up to his usual standard. Watch for the review in a few days!