Evidence of Things Unsensed

Here’s a link to my very brief review of Paul Bloom’s How Pleasure Works on NPR.org. Not the best job of work ever, but you’ll get the point.

Here’s the first paragraph. Yes, I know the quote is Voltaire, not Oscar Wilde, but my editor hasn’t made the requested change.

“Illusion,” quipped Voltaire Oscar Wilde, “is the first of all pleasures.” Clever enough, but more accurate would be the reverse assertion that pleasure is the first of all illusions. People are poor analysts when it comes to pleasure. We think we eat truffles because they’re delicious. We think we swoon in front of a Vermeer because it’s masterly and beautiful. This assumption of a simple correlation between quality and sensation misunderstands the promiscuity of pleasure.

How Pleasure Works is quite compelling, but in some areas the book reaches its limits rather quickly. Perhaps I’m more perverse than the average reader, but I’d hoped that Bloom would’ve been more revelatory about the limit zones of pleasure — S & M, for instance. He brings up Deleuze on masochism, but his reading is shallow: “….Gilles Deleuze might be partially right, then, when he insisted that masochism isn’t really about pain and humiliation, it’s about suspense and fantasy.” Well, yes, but that doesn’t summarize and dispose of the dynamic, at least not in any satisfactory sense.  Still, “Books We Like” is the name that NPR has given to their books coverage, and by no means did I have to lie.


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