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This interview is taken from PN Review 69, Volume 16 Number 1, September - October 1989.

in conversation with Dan Jacobson Michael Freeman

M: May we begin with your recent book Adult Pleasures? You argue there that "literature leaves us as we were before, except for knowing that we have been through the experience it provided". It is the process of reading literature that matters, rather than any insights or wisdom that we take away from it. What's the nature of that process, the importance of that experience?

D: Knowing that we have been through an experience implies a difference, at least in our consciousness, from what we were before we had the experience. So I would gloss what I said to that extent. But, yes, in the essays in that book I was reacting strongly against the idea of literature being valued for that which is extractable from it. I felt that this falsified what we go through - the process, as you put it - when we read. And I was trying to find terms in which we could value that process itself, rather than any 'end product' it might have. Partly, this arises simply from a struggle to be true to my experience. When I think about my reading as a child - and as an adult too: once something had gripped me in my reading, it was that very state of being gripped that made me go on as a reader. And indeed that's what made me a writer too, because it was so intense, so pleasurable, it was so different from life. Though of course ...


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