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Pickle Me This

February 16, 2012

"It was not that I merely read The New Yorker; I lived it in a private way"

“It was not that I merely read The New Yorker; I lived it in a private way. I had created for myself a New Yorker world (located somewhere east of Westport and west of the Cotswolds) where Peter de Vries (punning softly) was forever lifting a glass of Piesporter, where Niccolo Tucci (in a plum velvet dinner jacket) flirted in Italian with Muriel Spark, where Nabokov sipped tawny port from a prismatic goblet (while a Red Admirable perched on his pinky), and where John Updike tripped over the master’s Swiss shoes, excusing himself charmingly (repeating all the while that Nabokov was the best writer of English currently holding American citizenship). Meanwhile, the Indian writers clustered in a corner punjabbering away in Sellerian accents (and giving off a pervasive odor of curry) and the Irish memorists (in fishermen’s sweaters and whiskey breath) were busy snubbing the prissily tweedy English memorists.

Oh, I had mythicized other magazines and literary quarterlies, too, but The New Yorker had been my shrine since childhood. (Commentary, for example, held rather grubby gatherings at which bilious-looking Semites-all of whom were named Irving-worried each other to death about Jewishness, Blackness, and Consciousness, while dipping into bowls of chopped liver and platters of Nova Scotia.) These soirees amused me, but it was for The New Yorker that I reserved my awe. I never would have dared to send my own puny efforts there, so it outraged and amazed me to find someone I had actually known frequenting its pages.” –Erica Jong, Fear of Flying

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