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And Handsome, This Reader Too

INTERVIEWER: Do you imagine an ideal reader for your books?

BURGESS: The ideal reader of my novels is a lapsed Catholic and failed musician, short-sighted, color-blind, auditorily biased, who has read the books that I have read. He should also be about my age.

INTERVIEWER: A very special reader indeed. Are you writing, then, for a limited, highly educated audience?

BURGESS: Where would Shakespeare have got if he had thought only of a specialized audience? What he did was to attempt to appeal on all levels, with something for the most rarefied intellectuals (who had read Montaigne) and very much more for those who could appreciate only sex and blood. I like to devise a plot that can have a moderately wide appeal. But take Eliot’s The Waste Land, very erudite, which, probably through its more popular elements and its basic rhetorical appeal, appealed to those who did not at first understand it but made themselves understand it. The poem, a terminus of Eliot’s polymathic travels, became a starting point for other people‚Äôs erudition. I think every author wants to make his audience. But it’s in his own image, and his primary audience is a mirror.

—Anthony Burgess, interviewed by John Cullinan in the Art of Fiction, 48, in The Paris Review.

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