Anthony Burgess, Fibber

Jonathan Lethem, at Salon, remembers embarrassing himself while getting an autograph from Anthony Burgess. He asked —

The Wanting Seed, my favorite of his novels – could it, possibly, by any chance, have been influenced by the writing of Philip K. Dick? (I now know that Burgess’s novel was written well before any of Dick’s major novels had appeared; the question was foolish.)

“I don’t read science fiction,” Burgess hissed, taking his revenge now.

But he knew who I was talking about.

This happened in 1985.

Greg Benford, pointing to Lethem’s post, put the lie to Burgess’ claim.

Anthony Burgess didn’t read science fiction ? Oh yeah?

In 1981 he wrote me a letter about Timescape

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8 thoughts on “Anthony Burgess, Fibber

  1. And he considered CLOVKWORK ORANGE a bit of hackwork, and did not like it, he claimed many times. Though the langauge constructs and logic mean someone did some sweating over it.

    He still must have his head up the arse of mainstream criticism, that science fiction is no good. Might explain his publicly aired view of CO.

    Come on now, what else diud he write that you can recall off hand without internet peeking?

  2. The WASHINGTON POST once ran an article about a super-fanatical book collector who explained that most writers would sign their books if you sent enough postage to return them. The exception was Burgess. If you mailed books to Anthony Burgess to sign, he’d sell them!

  3. The pendulum has swung the other way, with writers like Lethem opening admitting they read science fiction. (By coincidence, we read Letham, too.) Soon, Old Farts who need to be seen as having the most literary prestige will have to brag bout reading SF … even if they never did! Even Mitt Romney said he read Battlefield Earth, and that’s about as Establishment as you get.

  4. I’ve been told he wrote somewhere that he was unhappy about the film A Clockwork Orange because he only got 600 GBP for the rights, long before the movie was ever made.

    I’m seen the original of the enthusiastic, hand-written letter he sent J. Neil Schulman in which he said he stayed up all night reading Alongside Night.

  5. Mitt Romney is not Establishment. In my mind, to enjoy BATTLEFIELD EARTH is to own up to not being well read. I read a chunk of it. It’s a breeze with one word paragraphs. And exclaimation points! I also admit I didn’t finish it because the bookstore owner told me to buy it or stop.

    I’d be more impressed if Mitt Romney had read Roger Zelazny or Isaac Asimov.

  6. @Robert: I didn’t know your work included denying applications for admission to the Establishment!

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