January 9, 2011

Writers and Driving

Martin Amis, in The Information, wrote: “Poets don't drive. Never trust a poet who can drive. Never trust a poet at the wheel. If he can drive, distrust the poems . . .” When I first read that, I thought it was just Amis being hyperbolically amusing. But I recently discovered (on her marvelous new blog) that Ursula Le Guin doesn’t drive. Now, I also don’t drive, and neither does my wife. Part of my aversion to cars arises from a conscious decision to use less of the world’s resources, but there is also an innate dislike of the car as object. I love traveling by bicycle and train, but zipping around in a stinky little metal box is yucky. I knew that Nabokov never learned to drive, though he sometimes wrote in the car (that's him up there, with his index cards). His wife Vera drove him on his butterfly-catching expeditions. And Ray Bradbury has famously never learned to drive. Of course, there are also wonderful writers who celebrated driving – On the Road and the opening scene of All the King’s Men come to mind – but perhaps there is something behind Amis’s comment. It would be fun to compile a list of writers who don’t drive, and then see to what extent one can trust their poems.

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