Thursday, December 01, 2005


Talking Amazonia, V.S. Pritchett's pipe

On this morning's edition of MobyLives Radio, I discuss the new paperback edition of Amazonia with Dennis Johnson. Mostly we focus on the new material--the afterword and my conversation with Henry Blodget--and when I just listened to the exchange online, I hardly winced at all. Warning: there's some odd crackling every time I raise my voice, possibly due to the antique Princess Phone technology at my end, but all in all it's clear enough.

I was glancing through Jeremy Treglown's V.S. Pritchett: A Working Life the other day, and came across this interesting example of New Yorker-style prudery, circa 1969:
Among the stories he was working on around this time was one narrated by a student who falls for her teacher. At first, it's his marriage that she's attracted to, but the unreciprocating, pipe-smoking professor soon becomes the main focus. To escape her obsession, the girl eventually gets her father to take her home, but not before--in a scene which guaranteed rejection by the New Yorker--she puts the professor's pipe in her mouth. "The taste was sour and I thought how dirty men are. I was afraid I was going to be sick."
Indeed. Treglown goes on to assure us that despite the author's famous affection for pipes--he's clutching one on the book jacket--we're not reading a disguised slice of autobiography. The hyperactive V.S., then teaching at Smith, was much too busy cranking out George Meredith and English Comedy, a new collection called Blind Love, and approximately one million book reviews, to fool around with his students.

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