A Literary Living Room

Martin Amis makes an analogy to describe two kinds of authors:

A great part of writing is hoping to make things as nice as possible for the reader — be a good host, have them put their feet up by the fire, pull up a chair, get out a good wine. The writer who loves the reader always feels that; Nabokov would always give you his best chair.

But there have been one or two writers who didn’t give a shit about the reader, like Joyce — partly because he had patronage, he didn’t need the reader to earn a living. And Henry James, who went off the reader in a huge way, which is why those last few novels became impenetrable. If you look at early James, he’s almost middlebrow, then you get The Ambassadors, this incredibly convoluted thing. Joyce and James became bad hosts: If you wandered into their house you wouldn’t be welcomed. You’d stagger around while they were in the kitchen making some vile concoction which might amuse you, but it would taste disgusting and eccentric.