More Pure than Most

Levin had never produced much – he’d never written a book, and he’d never been concerned about writing one. He had devoted himself to his teaching; he had written his elegant reviews and essays, three or four a year; and the very spareness of his output had finally begun to seem a mark of his intellectual delicacy, the fineness of his discriminations. Every writer writes with mixed motives, with some combination of purity and self-aggrandizement; Levin was no exception, but he was much more pure than most. He would have been reading and writing in the same way – for pleasure and self-clarification – if you had put him on a desert island. He had spent little time pushing himself forward in the world, “managing his career”; that would have been a disagreeable distraction for reading and writing and teaching, from the work he loved.

—Brian Morton, Starting Out in the Evening


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