Issue 106, Spring 1988
To the Editor:
With reference to your interview with John Irving appearing in your Winter 1987 edition in which Mr. Irving alleges I was rude and snubbed Mr. John Cheever during a visit to Iowa:
I was not carrying a cane at the time but remember a request from Mr. Irving to speak with him privately which I did and during which meeting I suggested to him, that if he had the option to leave the cosy world of teaching, it was better to go suffer and pursue a writing career outside of university. This advice he seems to have taken, and I'm told, he was heard to mention it on a radio broadcast some years ago. As for snubbing Mr. John Cheever, I distinctly recall pleasantly meeting this distinguished gentleman in his classroom during one of his teaching sessions. Also, I am informed by the friend sending me this cutting from the Paris Review that one of Mr. Cheever’s students (now a published novelist), was at the time at Iowa and was present at my talk and quotes Mr. Cheever as saying he thought the lecture and reading wonderful and that one’s tailoring was sublime. As someone who has always only dressed to keep warm and comfortable, Mr. Cheever’s reference to my tailoring comes as a surprise but clearly is not the remark of a man who has felt snubbed, and I suspect there is some other reason for Mr. Irving’s remarks.
It is true that I do not have untold sympathy for the American academic fraternity nor did I keep up with the literary scene then, nor do I now. But I note in the paragraph on page 95 preceding this present above matter, that Mr. Irving refers to the interchangeable use of “I” as a first person narrator with third person narrator. At least it is evident that this device, first used in The Ginger Man, has made an impression on Mr. Irving. All this has come to my attention not as a subscriber nor as a recipient of complimentary copies of the Paris Review and which latter I assure Mr. Plimpton I do not receive.