Why, Jenny, as I watch you there,—
For all your wealth of loosened hair,
Your silk ungirdled and unlac’d
And warm sweets open to the waist,
All golden in the lamplight’s gleam,—
You know not what a book you seem,
Half-read by lightning in a dream!

– Dante Gabriel Rossetti
“Jenny,” 1870

What better way to begin a blog than with words about books? Ever since I read DG Rossetti’s Jenny for a class, these lines have lingered in my mind. The description of Jenny, a prostitute, is tantalizing, sparkling, inciting desire in the reader in only a few lines – a noteworthy accomplishment alone. However, the crowning achievement here is that Rossetti sums up perfectly the passion and the mindset of the scholar narrator (and, I think, many of us who write.) To compare a topless prostitute to a book seems a strange metaphor, but for the speaker they are objects of near-equal desire.

For me as well, desire and reading (and writing) are not far separated. The key element is the potential, the possibility, that tantalizing moment when you can feel the unknown expanding in front of you. When I open a book, when I meet a lover, when I write the first meeting of my main characters, I can’t always be sure how things will end – but I know it’s going to be a tumultuous, emotional, incredibly enjoyable ride.

2 thoughts on “Books and Desire – A Quote for Inspiration

  1. It’s almost beautiful that the object of his desire is a prostitute. A cold reminder that who or what we love may not always love us back. Writers may love stories and writing, but in the end both are prostitutes.

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