I see [Saul] Bellow perhaps twice a year, and we call, and we write. But that accounts for only a fraction of the time I spend in his company. He is on the shelves, on the desk, he is all over the house, and always in the mood to talk. That’s what writing is, not communication but a means of communion. And here are the other writers who swirl around you, like friends, patient, intimate, sleeplessly accessible, over centuries. This is the definition of literature.
Nice, right? Now this, about the aftermath of a troubling visit at Bellow’s house with Christopher Hitchens, when Amis and Hitchens found themselves helplessly laughing off their tension and anxiety:
But feelings were being mourned: feelings about the first half of life. Youth can perhaps be defined as the illusion of your own durability. The final evaporation of this illusion parches the skin beneath the eyes and makes your hair crackle to the brush. It was over. There would be hell to pay. Dying suns of a certain size perform the alchemist’s nightmare: they turn gold into lead. And there we were, in 1989, heading towards base metal. Transmutation had come to him, and would soon come to me.
The first will be instantly accessible to any serious reader. The second might have more impact for Readers Of A Certain Age right now. Wait a while, then come back to it.