Who reads reviews? Occasionally a lot of people. But usually just the book’s author, if she Googles herself, plus any pals, parents, exes, etc. who also search for her. Otherwise, our only readers are our friends, who feel obligated to at least skim our boring review because we liked theirs on Facebook. Why do we prioritize some imaginary “public” over people we actually know, and who read our work? Why don’t we want to write, and read, for our friends? Perhaps we fear our freedom. If we could read and write anything we wanted, what would we read and write? Probably not book reviews. Choices would have to be made. Imagine a literary culture in which the relationship between reader and writer was as intimate and direct as the relationship between poet and patron. This would not be, and never was, a recipe for health or contentment—most marriages are unhappy. But the “passion” that Arnold thought needed to be neutralized could proudly speak its name. Why should a writer be ashamed to write for someone she knows? Why should her friends and enemies feign a lack of interest in her work? Affection, attraction, admiration, rivalry, resentment: all are aphrodisiacs, and heighten our interest in what’s before us. Nobody insists we fuck strangers—why must we read them? If the privacy of pure patronage is impossible or undesirable, the traditional courtship can be replaced by the orgy.
more from Elizabeth Gumport at n+1 here.