Literary Seductions by Frances Wilson
Compulsive Writers and Diverted Readers

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Synopsis

We have all surrendered ourselves to the world that writing creates. Eudora Welty once observed that her mother read the works of Charles Dickens in the same spirit with which she would have eloped with him. Some of us remember our first novel with more pleasurable vividness than our first kiss. Many of us go to on-line chat rooms, looking for love with our keyboard. And most of us have tried to seduce with words-reciting that Shakespeare sonnet or composing that Valentine's Day poem with tremulous hope. All writing seeks to ensnare the reader in its embrace. As Frances Wilson also proves in this engaging, enlightening, and provocative new book, writing can also ensnare the writers themselves. Highlighting the lives and loves of celebrated literary couples, Wilson reveals the depth of their passion for language-their own as well as their partner's. Taking as a point of departure the legendary courtship of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett, a courtship conceived on the printed page, Wilson explores how easily, how seductively, literary desire becomes sexual desire and vice versa. "Literary seductions," she writes, are "violent, extreme, and irreversible." Not all reading seduces, not all writing inflames. But when they do, what is written ceases to be merely an arrangement of symbols on a page. The word has been made flesh.Lady Caroline Lamb and Lord Byron, Anas Nin and Henry Miller, Laura Riding and Robert Graves, Osip and Nadzheda Mandelstam, W. B. and Georgie Yeats were all in the grip of a compulsion for writing and reading, enmeshed in words.Miller called his relationship with Nin, a "literary fuck-fest"; for Riding and Graves, it took on the self-destructive (and self-conscious) melodrama of a Russian novel; for the Mandelstams, it was a life-giving (if self-sacrificing) bond in a precarious world; for George and W. B Yeats, it offered sexual stimulus. The couplings of verbs and nouns do more than precede coupling; they comprise it. Literary Seductions is itself a seductive book. The elegant power of Wilson's arguments, the rigor of her research, and the delights of her prose enthrall the reader. Here is intellectual engagement and readerly pleasure rolled into one.AUTHORBIO: Frances Wilson teaches at Reading University in England and writes for The London Review of Books.She is currently working on a biography of the regency courtesan, writer, and blackmailer, Harriette Wilson.
 

About Frances Wilson

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Frances Wilson is Lecturer in English at the University of Reading.
 
Published October 4, 1999 by Faber & Faber. 304 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Literary Seductions

Kirkus Reviews

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English critic Wilson's study of several notoriously intense couplings shows how certain literary obsessions—assimilating the world through reading, sustaining oneself through writing—become interchangeable with heterosexual passion.

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Publishers Weekly

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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;

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Literary Review

As Henry Miller put it to Anaïs Nin, 'I am at core a writer and not a human being.' Flaubert put it differently: 'I write a love letter, to write, and not because I love.' Because Katie Roiphe discusses writers as though they were human beings who wrote love letters because they loved, and becaus...

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Literary Review

Picking out a few of the prizes available, I see that I have never won the Runciman Award, the Tir na n-Og Award, the Imison Award, the Authors' Club Award, the Costa Book Award, the Hawthornden Prize, the Portico Prize, the David Berry Prize, the Whitfield Prize, the John D Criticos Prize, the N...

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