It's been said that one can't like both Lawrence and Joyce, that one has to choose between them. You don't feel this way?
No. Because I really don't take Lawrence's sexual theories very seriously. I take his art seriously, not his doctrine. But he himself warned us repeatedly not to trust the artist. He said trust the work itself. So I have little use for the Lawrence who wrote The Plumed Serpent and great admiration for the Lawrence who wrote The Lost Girl.
INTERVIEWERYour context is essentially that of the modern city, isn't it? Is there a reason for this beyond the fact that you come out of an urban experience?
Well, I don't know how I could possibly separate my knowledge of life, such as it is, from the city. I could no more tell you how deeply it's gotten into my bones than the lady who paints radium dials in
the clock factory can tell you.
INTERVIEWERYou've mentioned the distractive character of modern life. Would this be most intense in the city?
The volume of judgments one is called upon to make depends upon the receptivity of the observer, and if one is very receptive, one has a terrifying number of opinions to render—“What do you think about this, about that, about Vietnam, about city planning, about expressways, or garbage disposal, or democracy, or Plato, or pop art, or welfare states, or literacy in a 'mass society'?” I wonder whether there will ever be enough tranquility under modern circumstances to allow our contemporary Wordsworth to recollect anything. I feel that art has something to do with the achievement of stillness in the midst of chaos. A stillness that characterizes prayer, too, and the eye of the storm. I think that art has something to do with an arrest of attention in the midst of distraction.