Magazine article Psychology Today

First Thing You Read?

Magazine article Psychology Today

First Thing You Read?

Article excerpt

A MINOR CONFESSION: I always read the Acknowledgements section of a book first. I want unvarnished, interpersonal insight into the writer: How exactly does X thank his wife? Why does Y list only a few people whereas Z has five pages' worth? (Obviously, I'm also curious about X,Y, and Z's social alphabets.) My favorite author, William Faulkner, would ridicule this: He argued that readers should be "too busy with the work to care about the individuality."

In art as in life, there is creative tension between anecdotal, incidental information and real data. In nonfiction, stories get you into the party, but you need the data to understand why you're there in the first place. In forming impressions of others, we are all master storytellers, homing in on tiny, possibly insignificant details and spinning fairy tales after just a few moments' chat. Initial interactions have a Technicolor salience that can linger forever. But in the realm of romance, first impressions may not carry the weight that we think they do. …

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