“[W]hy do we assume that pleasure is the goal of writing or reading?” (206), asks Laura Frost late in her second book, The Problem with Pleasure: Modernism and Its Discontents. It is an important question and a timely one given the current state of academic publishing, which tends less and less to the rarified and more to the siren call of readability. What is the role of pleasure when we sit down to read a novel or a critical work? Frost does not explicitly consider the academic market in which she is writing—one that asks the critic to speak to a TED-sized audience of enthusiasts rather than a narrow base of scholars—but her impressive book on modernism's difficult pleasures resounds with contemporary debates about the nature of what we do. How do we read (or write) difficult prose, and why should...

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