“In a literary seduction the reader first falls in love with writing in the form of a book, a poem, a single line or an isolated word and then falls for the writer himself. Rather than being captivated by a smile, a voice, or a gesture it is in the patterns of certain letters, the positions of particular vowels, the flow of the sounds or the story that the lover drowns. The passion between reader and writer is born from writing, conducted through writing, sustained by writing. In literary seductions words become flesh.” (p.xiv)
“What does it mean to fall in love with the arrangements of signs on a page? Why were Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning so seduced by one another’s writing that each was willing to sacrifice all he had? (…) Another way of exploring these questions might be to ask instead why it is that some writing is not seductive and why some writers – most writers – fail to inspire their readers into giving up life as they know it for the sake of a few lines of prose or poetry. Why do readers tend to be so unmoved by what they read?” (p.xv)
“We listen to the book’s praise and block it out; the book is too much for us, we are not ready for it. We realize its risk and know that to read it will be dangerous, that to give ourselves to the book will be sacrificial. We would sooner not read, and stay as we are. Hence the great unreads of world literature, giant books that have moved and terrified nations and with which we would prefer to be only broadly conversant rather than intimately engaged. ‘No one likes a good book if they have actually read it,’ Brodkey points out. This would be to underestimate the disturbing effect of being taken over by serious reading.” (p.xxii)
i got a copy of this book a number of years ago after taking a class frances taught (women’s writing and feminist theory) and read in it a bit but then got sidetracked since i had credits to accumulate and a thesis to write. i kept meaning to go back to it and read more, well, and now i am finally doing some pleasure reading. the bits above are from the introduction, and if this style of writing and discussion agrees with you, get your hands on a copy of this book. used copies go cheap on bookfinder and amazon and in other places so lack of funds is no argument.
what i enjoy about this book is the passion expressed in it. a passion for writing, the writing process, the writing mindsets, the mechanics and insanity and reason of writing. i derive great encouragement and some sort of satisfaction, reassurance i guess, from reading this stuff because my own experience with the writing process (and in reading) mirrors many things frances describes in both the compulsive writers and the diverted readers.
frances has written and / or edited at least two other books i am aware of, namely “byromania” (which, as you may have guessed, is about byron and his private and public personas) and a biography of dorothy wordsworth (which should arrive on my doorstep any day now). i am not a big fan of wordsworth, i have to admit that, but maybe that is just why i want to read this book. maybe it will help make him more palatable for me. in any case, there is another interesting literary woman for me to meet and i can hardly wait.