Monday, October 24, 2005

Seducing the Reader

In an essay titled “The Seduction of the Text,” Francine du Plessix Gray outlines four central principles that she communicates to students in her writing classes. She captured my interest immediately with the first two. Here are a few sentences on each:

Keep Your Sentences Erotic: “[T]hink of each word as a potential spouse or lover… We can only avoid bromides and platitudes by combating the embrace of all words that are too long married, by struggling against any form of verbal missionary positions.”

Create a Pact of Trust: “Erotic strategies […] remain central to the covenant of trust that must be forged between reader and author, for it is very similar to the relationship evolved by happy lovers. These two kinds of pacts share the same trait: In order not to be tediously predictable, a good writer, like a good lover, must create a pact of trust with the object of his/her seduction that remains qualified, paradoxically, by a good measure of uncertainty, mystery, and surprise.”

(From Marie Arana, ed., The Writing Life: Writers on How They Think and Work (2003) at 7.)


patricia said...

Oh, I do like that perspective, and not just because it involves the subject of seduction. Well, ok, yes, that's the main reason.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the concept of reading as a sensual relationship, between the reader and the book. It is a very, very deep, private relationship, even more private than the relationship you have with your lover. Most people I would hazard a guess, had a relationship with a book before they ever had a deep personal relationship with another human being. I certainly took a book to bed with me long before I ever bedded a guy. So yes, it's very important that good writing seduce, entice, take you into its trust, into its arms.

Kate S. said...

I agree with you about the deep private relationship between reader and book. I've kept a diary on and off since I was ten-years-old and on a recent read through the early years I was struck by the fact that I never once mentioned any of the books I was reading. As a child, I don't think I ever discussed what I was reading with my friends either. I puzzled for a while over why this would be so despite the enormous part that books played in my life. I finally concluded that my relationships with my favourite books were so intimate that I didn't want to share them even with my diary, let alone with other people. It was as if talking about them would spoil the magic, make it difficult to fully enter back into them. I know that there's something special about shared reading experiences too and I was quite awed at the idea of so many people reading the same book at the same time on the day the latest Harry Potter was released. But at the same time I wondered if all the hoopla might have taken something away from the intimacy of the reading experience. Then again, most readers, especially kids, seem to have the capacity to be alone with a book no matter how many people they are surrounded by, so perhaps that's a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too scenario.