Reading Marla Miniano's From This Day Forward, for example, made me recall similar weddings, similar failed loves, and the smooth feel of a shapeless gold dress I had to wear the last time I was a bridesmaid. Reading Lauren Willig's The Mischief of the Mistletoe for the nth time never fails to bring that kilig feeling when I imagine how the characters look like and act towards each other. Or at least that's what I think it means when Barthes says that this is where the pleasure part comes in. The language is innocent and as readers, we bring something else to cover it. We attach something else to the text that we're reading. In a way it's also something that can be controlled. (Also, I'm probably simplifying this in ways that will make my Lit professors cringe.)
The jouissance part, or the bliss, that's the tricky one. It's an action, not just a state of mind. This is the text that unsettles you, the reading experience that becomes unbearable. Pleasure is for the masses; jouissance is undiluted, uncontrolled. When I read about jouissance in critical text, I always go hot damn, what was the last novel that made me feel that?
Anyway, this post really isn't about jouissance more than it is about the simple pleasures I feel when I read a good romance. I don't really mention this a lot, but I can hear a soundtrack in my head. Doesn't matter if it's anachronistic, like Snow Patrol's Signal Fire when I'm reading about Mau and Daphne in Terry Pratchett's Nation. Or seamlessly complement the narrative, like Red House Painter's Revelation Big Sur for Sweethearts. I know a lot of writers who write with music in the background or pick out playlists for their own books (check out Libba Bray's here). In a way, this connection with music is what triggers my pleasure centers and make me feel like this most of the time:
This year, I believe, will be my year of pleasure and the romance novel: to make connections and attachments between words and images, whether I am a reader or a writer. May awareness and emotion visit us with every turn of the page.