At Free Love Corner
- Literary Seductions: Compulsive Writers and Diverted Readers by Frances Wilson
Faber, 258 pp, £12.99, October 1999, ISBN 0 571 19288 2
Reading, according to Barthes, is like those other solitary occupations, praying and masturbation. Certainly, there are those who are troubled when they come across people publicly performing the act of silent reading. When the youthful Augustine found Ambrose reading without moving his lips, he made every effort to excuse his mentor:
Vol. 22 No. 9 · 27 April 2000
Maybe Jenny Diski was having a bad hair day when she reviewed Literary Seductions (LRB, 30 March) and mistook my analysis of the identities we inhabit and the fantasies we harbour when we read or write as ‘romantic biography’. However, I am grateful to her for pointing out that the affairs between Byron and Caroline Lamb, Robert Graves and Laura Riding and Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller are known about even by those ‘halfway interested in literature’: to my embarrassment I assumed I had landed the literary scoop of the century.