Category: "writers"

In Sunday's New York Times Book Review a friend described the writer Penelope Lively as "shrewd and wise, which is so rare in the age of clever."

By Thomas Swick • Category: writers

strange praise

04/14/17 09:11

Today, writers are frequently praised for their 'compassion,' 'generosity,' 'honesty' - all qualities we have traditionally valued in our friends.

By Thomas Swick • Category: writers

I always had a soft spot for Derek Walcott, the poet who died on Friday. In the mid-80s, on a gray winter’s day in Philadelphia, I had drinks with him and Joseph Brodsky. I had gone to a reading the two men had given, accompanying a friend of Hania’s – a tall, striking African-American woman – who had befriended Brodsky in New York. After the reading, the company headed out to a hotel bar, and I was allowed to tag along.

 Brodsky was already quite full of himself. This was a couple years before he would be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature; Walcott would get it five years later. Walking up Broad Street, I told Brodsky that his throaty recitations of poetry sometimes reminded me of Okudzhava, the great Russian singer-songwriter, thinking he’d be impressed by my worldliness. He gave a short, derisive laugh.

 At the bar, the two men ordered Scotch. At one point Brodsky handed Walcott a new poem he had written, and Walcott read it with pen in hand, correcting a word here, a punctuation mark there (the privilege of the native speaker), before handing it back to him. Then, sensing I was feeling a bit out-of-place, he turned to me and asked, “What do you do, Tom?”

 I answered the question – I was writing feature stories for the American College of Physicians – and the conversation quickly moved elsewhere. But I’ve never forgotten his unnecessary kindness.

By Thomas Swick • Category: writers

I recently did a book reading (not in Key West) that was attended by about 50 people. Apart from the book fair, when I was on a panel, it was the biggest crowd I’ve had. They laughed at all the right spots, nodded frequently, followed every word. When I finished, there were very few questions (perhaps they’re shy, I thought) and so I closed by saying I’d be happy to sign books.

One woman approached, asking for my autograph. A friend who'd come out also bought a copy. The store's event coordinator, perhaps out of a sense of duty, had me sign two. I waited for more avid readers, newly won fans, but none appeared. People had come out to hear what I had to say, listened appreciatively, but felt no need to continue the pleasure on the printed page. One hour's entertainment from me was enough. 

By Thomas Swick • Category: writers

Are neurotics naturally drawn to writing, or does a life spent depending on the approval of others simply make one neurotic?

By Thomas Swick • Category: writers

I'm rereading Anthony Burgess's You've Had Your Time and finding the intelligence and humor even more bracing in the age of the agony memoir.

By Thomas Swick • Category: writers