"It is the work of the writer," Rikki Ducornet told an interviewer, Joanna Scott, in 1993, "to move beyond the simple definitions or descriptions of things . . . and to bring a dream to life through the alchemy of language." By adhering to this credo for almost four decades, Ducornet has flummoxed the literary authorities, the gatekeepers at places like the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Lannan Foundation and the National Book Critics Circle -- she has beguiled them into giving her a place of eminence (prizes, notable mentions) that they would not otherwise do for such a transgressive (sexy, ethereal, imaginative and, yes, at times unreadable) writer. Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky" must be Ducornet's "The Elements of Style."
In other words, she's a witch. Beguiling is what she does best. Writing is her modus operandi, her web. Ducornet appeals to her readers' feral natures; their covetous side (she is a master collector of glittering objects -- corsets, linens, gold and dumplings -- which are sprinkled generously throughout her prose) and their lascivious, voyeuristic tendencies. You feel naughty reading Ducornet, you hide the book. Gonna have to face it -- you're addicted to lit.
Because her work is full of rich, literary, sophisticated, worldly, historical references, the lucky reader (as in, to get lucky) can be nerdy and sexy at the same time (the naughty librarian syndrome). All this and heaven too, as my grandmother used to say.