Ellis Hanson responds to Dustin Friedman

Friedman reminds me how much I enjoyed reading Wright elaborate on his own metaphors, for logic and for desire. Bad logic is not bad in the moralizing sense, but bad like a bad penny (fake, but still manages to circulate) or bad fruit (decaying, softening at the edges). The images are certainly both Decadent and make Wilde a gold standard for counterfeit gestures and an ideal purveyor of the overripe — as long as they are not bad art, which would be unforgivable. Wright’s metaphors for desire are strictly sensational: a pang, an electric shock, a frisson, or (quoting Forster) a spark. Perhaps the real unmentioned Victorian hero of this book is Walter Pater, with his perpetual movement of exquisite intervals, delicious recoils, and countable pulses. Wright would certainly appreciate the long, sensuous, languorous sentence in “The Child in the House” at the end of which Pater evokes the passion of a painful sensation that sharpens aesthetic reflection: the sting of a wasp hidden in a bitten apple. The fruit is bad, but the sentence is perfect. The real sting is in the reflections, however, since it would be forgettable otherwise. One might call desire more properly less a shock than a story. Desire always has a syntax, even a plot, and the shocks are invariably circuitous. I like a desire with a long and complicated plot, and given his choice of novels to discuss, so apparently does Wright.

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