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Literary Seductions: Compulsive Writers and Diverted Readers Hardcover – July, 2000

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

British lecturer Wilson (Reading University) analyzes the creative and erotic extremes of three 20th-century writing couples for whom love for each other and love for each other's writing were one and the same; they were in a state of "literary seduction"Apossessed, consumed or contained by each other's writing. For Henry Miller and Ana?s Nin, this meant literary possessionAa literary outpouring (explosive in his case, slow and steady in hers) in which "there was never a point at which they realized they had said it all." Robert Graves and Laura Riding experienced literary consumption, wherein Graves deified Riding as "a literal incorporation" of the Muse and his "ruling passion," to the exclusion of his own children and other relationships. For Osip and Nadezhda Mandelstam, it was literary containment, seen in her decades-long crusade to preserve his writing, in hidden manuscripts and in her memory, after his death in Stalin's camps. Beginning with Wilson's ability to unite these seemingly unconnected writers, there's much to admire here. She arranges the essays intelligently, building in intensity for a payoff in the afterword on the Yeatses. Characterizations are apt: Laura Riding is an underappreciated "intellectual terrorist" who likened herself to Middlemarch's Casaubon. Despite these qualities, the book is unsatisfying. The seduction construct seems limiting and ephemeral, nor does the book invite continued study of the authors. Wilson's work is original, yet its theory of the confusion "of sexual with textual desire" remains unconvincing. (July)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Wilson (English literature, Reading Univ., UK; editor of Byromania: Portraits of the Artist in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Culture) examines momentsDwhich she refers to as "literary seductions"Din which readers have lost themselves in the text and writers have lost themselves in the compulsive zeal of writing. She notes that the classic example of literary seduction, the relationship between Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, is atypical for its lasting mutual passion, which extended beyond the writing. She also addresses the extreme case of Caroline Lamb, so seduced by the writing of Lord Byron (her lover) that she became obsessed with wanting to be Byron, preferring simulations of him to the real person. Wilson's primary focus is on three couplesDAna s Nin and Henry Miller, Laura Riding and Robert Graves, and Osip and Nadezhda MandelstamDwhose lives were changed forever by powerful literary seductions that turned to extreme forms of possession, consumption, and containment, respectively. Wilson has created her own literary seduction and a cadre of diverted readers with this fascinating, enthusiastic study. Highly recommended for academic and research libraries.DJeris Cassel, Rutgers Univ. Libs., New Brunswick, NJ
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 258 pages
  • Publisher: St Martins Pr (July 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312261934
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312261931
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,212,348 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Even though not all readers are seduced and not all writers are compulsive, when a peculiar chemistry occurs between reader and writer, the written word is made flesh and creates strange bedfellows. Frances Wilson has connected the dots and produced a unique and astonishing study of this perhaps unholy alliance.
Beginning with the famous courtship of Elizabeth Barrett by Robert Browning as a kind of contrast/control because of its relative wholesomeness, Wilson goes on to explore the more pathological literary seductions of Anais Nin and Henry Miller, Laura Riding and Robert Graves, Osip and Nadzheda Mandelstam, and W.B. and Georgie Yeats. The Brownings were more normal and sane, according to this author, because they achieved the "...transition from a love of one another's words to a broader love beyond the literary."
But the dynamic of the more pathological literary seductions are different for all. Anais Nin and Henry Miller were possessed by words. "Henry saw the English language as a part of his body" while Anais "...believed words were speaking HER rather than the other way around." They both wrote constantly and compulsively and their sexual involvement with each other was defined by their writing.
Laura Riding, on the other hand, was "la belle dam sans merci." She and Robert Graves together created this mythic persona of Laura and they both fed upon and nurtured it in their writing. They did not "...live to tell the tale so much as tell the tale in order to find a way of living." In other words, they wrote themselves into existence.
For the Russian husband and wife team, Osip and Nadzheda Mandelstam, life was a Gulag Archipelago. Osip was tormented by the poems that he heard as a buzzing in his brain until he wrote them down.
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Format: Paperback
If you are a writer, a muse or something in between, this book may fascinate you for more than purely scholarly reasons. It is an unusual approach, and in some ways it could be an especially helpful one. The two words I have are: cautionary tales. The things that we dream of, sometimes they are not such good ideas.
If you like this book, or this topic, there are of course many other books about writers and the weaknesses of flesh and spirit, however you may especially like _What Lips My Lips Have Kissed_ about Edna St. Vincent Millay.
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