Friday, September 4, 2009

C. S. Lewis on Narrative Lust

I give you C. S. Lewis in "On Stories," at the part where he talks about "narrative lust":

The re-reader is looking not for actual surprises (which can come only once) but for a certain surprisingness…In the only sense that matters the surprise works as well the twentieth time as the first. It is the quality of unexpectedness, not the fact that delights us. It is even better the second time. Knowing that the "surprise" is coming we can now fully relish the fact that this path through the shrubbery doesn’t look as if it were suddenly going to bring us out on the edge of the cliff. So in literature. We do not enjoy a story fully at the first reading. Not till the curiosity, the sheer narrative lust, has been given its sop and laid asleep, are we at leisure to savour the real beauties. Till then, it is like wasting great wine on a ravenous natural thirst which merely wants cold wetness. The children understand this well when they ask for the same story over and over again, and in the same words. They want to have again the "surprise" of discovering that what seemed Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother is really the wolf. If is better when you know it is coming: free from the shock of actual surprise you can attend better to the intrinsic surprisingness of the peripeteia.

(C. S. Lewis. On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature. 17