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…
Jonathan Lethem in 2008
Jonathan Lethem is taking over the Roy Disney Chair of Creative Writing at Pomona College, a position held by David Foster Wallace until his death, in 2008:
Lethem and Wallace have had what might be called a mystical relationship. They never met, but they might have. In the early nineteen-eighties, a mutual friend told Lethem that he should meet a guy named Dave, “who wants to write, too.” In later decades, they moved in the same literary circles, and, Lethem said, “had indirect gestures in one another’s direction. He said some very nice things about my work, and I returned the favor by plagiarizing him” (in a defense of plagiarism titled “The Ecstasy of Influence” that ran in Harper’s in 2007). The symmetry of their careers makes the Pomona job seem to Lethem “strange and ghostly and almost like a Henry James story of a mysterious great man whose footsteps you walk into.”
Upon reading the news of Lethem’s move west the more literary among you doubtless had a more worthy thought than “I wonder if he’d be on a panel at Loscon?”
[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]