I spent a couple days in New York city this week, including an obligatory meeting with a pseudo-friend. If you don’t live in New York, you might not know what a pseudofriend is. New York is full of them. These are the people who want to get out of you a lot of the benefits of a friendshipthe exchange of ideas and gossip, the warmth, the removal of lonelinessbut without really paying out as a friend in any real generosity of spirit. Truly, they’d just as soon you do badly, and they even act to achieve that result. I’m not talking about friend/rivals. That’s an old and honored category of friendship. Old friends know how to negotiate that (ask Gore Vidal and Truman Capote..).
Pseudofriend is a professional category. It’s hard for writers to get along that well in N.Y. cause N.Y. is the writers’ olympic village. As it’s the olympic village for investment analysts, TV people, legal turks, advertising people, etc. I bet they have pseudofriends, too.
Here are two eminent writers holding forth on the subject. First is the late Saul Bellow, as interviewed by Philip Roth in The New Yorker:
Wow. Note that: Bellow never won any of his struggles in New York. (No wonder Roth lives in CT).
Now here’s Hemingway in a famous passage from The Green Hills of Africa:
Yes, I’m collecting string on this subject…