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Rapture Cover



Author Q & A

A conversation with Susan Minot, author of Rapture

Q: Rapture is a very intense story that takes place entirely within one afternoon, when two former lovers meet by chance and end up back in bed. Where did you get the idea for the story?

A: I wanted to write about how two people, while being involved in an intimate exchange--the most intimate one being sex--are able to have such different things going on in their minds.

Q: Was it difficult to write a full story that takes place in such a short time frame?

A: It was originally going to be a very short story of about four or five pages which would have suited the time frame, but, well, it just got longer because I went into the character's minds. And the one thing about thought is that it has a whole different sense of time, if it has any sense of time at all. One could, in theory, write a hundred pages about a momentary passing thought, if one went into all aspects of how it came into being along with the history of the person thinking it etc. So the difficulty in Rapture was stranding the reader in the one place in real time, and reminding him now and then that the present is moving, albeit slowly, along. But sex tends to keep people interested, and I suppose that helps.

Q: Your description of the lovers' sex always seems secondary to the stories playing out in their minds. Was it difficult to balance the erotic scenes with the interior monologues?

A: The balance is really between the inner and exterior life. Certainly some of the interior life is more erotic that what is going in the bedroom. The conveying of the difference between the two is always a juggling act, but very much the stuff of fiction. Every experience we have, while being playing out in the world, goes through the filter of our minds. And sex far more than people seem to agree upon. Yes, the body can have a life of its own, but the body whether engaged in sex or not always has a mind attached to it. And that interests me.

Q: Is it difficult to write a sex scene?

A: Of course! It's one of the writer's great challenges. As William Gass said, "Words become embarrassed in front of sex." Also, describing something so firmly rooted in the physical is always challenging for a writer. Like pain, it's very hard to put into words. And then there is something about making love which goes (mercifully) beyond words. If you're looking for the better art form for conveying sex, I would have to say that music seems to approach the depiction better. But I'm not a musician, alas...

Q: A point you seem to be making with Rapture is that no matter how intimate two people seem to be, they can still be oceans apart and not even know it. In your last novel, Evening, the main character, a dying woman who'd been married several times and had several children, was largely unknown throughout her life by those closest to her. Why does this emotional isolation, if that's the right description, interest you as a writer?

A: We all have this isolation in varying degrees. There is so much that goes on inside a person--it is the filter of all of our experience in life--and so often it is not known by, or communicated to, other people. I suppose it interests me simply because it is one of the basic facts of our experience--the internal life is, after all, one of the major terrains of literature--and also because the isolation can be bridged. We CAN connect and be understood. It just doesn't happen a lot, and it may not be happening when we think it is. Literature, and art, can teach us something about this. Writing at all is an effort to make that bridge, to, in E.M. Forster's phrase "only connect." And the experience of reading, too, is a sharing of that isolation.

Q: If you've given the novel to friends and family to read, have you noticed that men and women respond differently?

A: If I've noticed a difference, I would have to say that women are more likely to respond with a smile, or shiver, of recognition, while men might appear a little more distressed, and--how can I put this?--sort of hopeful that the story isn't really so true. By the way, men and women are, I think, more alike than different, but when it comes to what goes on between men and women, a lot of the differences which are there come into sharp relief.

Q: You recently completed your first collection of poems, Poems 4 A.M., which will be published this spring. Can you tell us a little about the poems?

A: I've been writing poems for over thirty years and they were, one might say, piling up. I thought it would be nice to clear them out, to try to trim some of them into shape and let them see the light of day. Most of the poems selected turn out to be about either trying to find one's bearings in a perplexing world, or that old poetic favorite: heartache.

Q: You've also written the screenplay for Bernardo Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty. What was that experience like? Would you want to work on another film?

A: I love movies and loved writing a movie and loved being on the set and all of that. It was great, and working with Bertolucci an honor. I've written a screenplay adaptation of my last novel Evening which is now with my producers at Hart/Sharp looking for a director and would love to keep working on movies forever.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I'm writing an adaptation for the stage, of a memoir called The Little Locksmith by Katherine Butler Hathaway. It is the story a woman who after a childhood illness which prevented her from growing beyond the size of a ten year old, overcame the limitations of her situation, (mostly the attitudes of those around her), and went on to live a full life, becoming a bohemian writer in Paris in the 30s.

Product Details

Minot, Susan
Short Stories (single author)
Man-woman relationships
Psychological fiction
General Fiction
Literature-A to Z
fiction;novel;contemporary fiction
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Vintage Contemporaries
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8.06x5.26x.36 in. .30 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Erotica » General
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture

Rapture New Trade Paper
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$12.75 In Stock
Product details 132 pages Vintage Books USA - English 9780375727887 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Minot has a great ear for the callow way people talk, scrupulously mimicking their groping thoughts and at times making a poetry of their inarticulateness." Publishers Weekly
"Review" by , "Minot reaches a new level in her career....Brimming with stylistic and emotional intelligence."
"Review" by , "A loose and discursive novella by Minot, who manages here to ramble on a pretty good ways in remarkably few pages."
"Review" by , "Sex and the single girl have seldom been absent from Susan Minot's fiction. Her second collection, let's recall, was titled Lust & Other Stories (1989), and even her 1992 period piece, Folly, included the odd glimpse of Edwardian canoodling. Still, Minot has raised the erotic ante with Rapture, structuring this short novel around a single act of fellatio....Rapture, in fact, would make an excellent argument for abstinence, were it not for the genuine allure of Minot's prose. Her ruminations on modern romance have an old-fashioned glow to them, while the graphic bits manage to evoke James Salter's sublimely lyrical French postcard, A Sport and a Pastime. And despite her half-ironic title, sex in Minot's fiction is at least a temporary sacrament?and anything but safe." (read the entire Atlantic Montly review)
"Review" by , "Rapture is a provacative and sensuous novella, a 114-page literary flourish...[Minot's] language has a muscular swagger uncommon in fiction by women, and her characters have peculiar opacities more typical of novels of another era. What makes Rapture utterly contemporary is the absence of true romance at its cold, cold heart."
"Review" by , "A disconcerting examination of love and war between the sexes."
"Review" by , "Minot's timeless, and she makes you feel its pure, raw ache....Rapture is erotic, but more: it's romantic in the true sense of the word."
"Review" by , "Explores a tragic irony of love and sex: how one partner can reach the heights of devotion at the very instant the other is dumped into the pits of despair."
"Review" by , "Mesmerizing...provocative."
"Review" by , "In Minot's writing, one is often reminded of Henry James. Like James, she pursues the filaments of emotion that almost escape language....Minot's writing [is] beautiful, evocative, and self-assured."
"Review" by , "A splendid piece of narrative sleight-of-hand...that further confirms Minot's place among our finest novelists."
"Review" by , "I would challenge any reader to read this and not find moments of gut-wrenching truth, as if Minot had looked straight into each of our hearts."
"Review" by , "In language simultaneously rich and spare....[Rapture] has a muscular swagger uncommon in fiction by women."
"Review" by , "Minot takes an insightful, intelligent, humorous look at the tangled mess of modern love."
"Review" by , "[Minot] draws the reader in with subtle strokes of mood and atmosphere and with her ability to express so much in so few words."
"Review" by , "You get the sense that Minot has lived every moment, spoken every syllable, felt every emotion. The weird thing is: so have you."
"Synopsis" by , Minot's audacious new novel builds on the achievement of Monkeys and the bestselling Evening to explore the multiple nuances of a single sexual act. Honest and unflinching, the result is a hypnotic reading experience.
"Synopsis" by , The setting is a New York apartment where two long-estranged lovers try to resuscitate their passion. Kay is old enough to be skeptical about men-this man in particular-but still alert to the possibility of true love. Benjamin is a filmmaker with an appealing waywardness and a conveniently disappearing fiancée. As the two lie entwined in bed, Susan Minot ushers readers across an entire landscape of memory and sensation to reveal the infinite nuances of sex: its power to exalt and deceive, to connect two separate selves or make them fully aware of their solitude. Honest and unflinching, the result is a hypnotic reading experience.
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