Essayist Sets Record Straight on Interviewer

The article about my Atlantic Monthly essay "A Reader's Manifesto" ("For Prose Warrior, Lit'rature Is the Enemy," July 16) describes me as rising to the challenge of a "rather testy" Rene Montaigne.

Ms. Montaigne had me babbling like a ninny in response to several other questions, but she and NPR were kind enough to leave only my more articulate responses in the edited version of the interview. Neither of us saw the discussion as a debate, but if it was one, Ms. Montaigne won it hands down.

I would also like to respond to Richard Eder's misrepresentation of my position as "if it's easy to read, it's good."

Mr. Eder has overlooked not only the essay's distinction between "good Mandarin" and "crude affectation," but also my advocacy of Joyce, Woolf, Nabokov, Proust and Borges, all of whom wrote in a far more challenging style than the skim-friendly writers Mr. Eder admires.

There is surely nothing difficult in Annie Proulx's phrase, "You rodeo, you're a rooster on Tuesday, a feather-duster on Wednesday," which Mr. Eder touted in his New York Times review of "Close Range" (1999) as achieving "the crossroads of great writing, the intersection of the specific and the universal."


Los Lunas, N.M.

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