Escaping the bright lights

Good to see John Updike’s Q&A with the Paris Review back in circulation on Twitter. I’ve always loved this part:


You seem to shun literary society. Why?


I don’t, do I? Here I am, talking to you. In leaving New York in 1957, I did leave without regret the literary demi-monde of agents and would-be’s and with-it non-participants; this world seemed un-nutritious and interfering. Hemingway described literary New York as a bottle full of tapeworms trying to feed on each other. When I write, I aim in my mind not toward New York but toward a vague spot a little to the east of Kansas. I think of the books on library shelves, without their jackets, years old, and a countryish teenaged boy finding them, and having them speak to him. The reviews, the stacks in Brentano’s, are just hurdles to get over, to place the books on that shelf. Anyway, in 1957, I was full of a Pennsylvania thing I wanted to say, and Ipswich gave me the space in which to say it, and in which to live modestly, raise my children, and have friends on the basis of what I did in person rather than what I did in print.

More on that theme in his wonderful memoir, “Self-Consciousness”.

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Chief theatre critic for The Times. Twitter: CliveDavisUK Facebook: Instagram: clivephotos
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