John Simon lives with his wife, Patricia Hoag-Simon, in a New York City high-rise two blocks from Lincoln Center. Our interview took place mainly in his airy living room. Although the furnishings are modern, there is no evidence that modern technology supports Simon’s work. He writes at a large desk in the adjoining book-lined den, and he writes in pen. He has not learned how to use a computer, nor does he want to; his wife told me that twentieth-century automation and computerization confuse him: “He didn’t know that he could go to various branches of his bank to get money,” she recalled. “He thought there was a pile of money in the back of his bank labeled ‘John Simon’s money.’ ”

He was dressed for something more than the occasion, wearing a light brown Zegna suit. “He even wears a suit to bed,” his wife joked. But his manner was informal, and when he saw I was concerned about whether my tape was picking up our voices from opposite couches, he promptly sat on the floor next to me. I joined him and the entire interview took place on the carpet. The next day, we talked mostly in Simon’s study and in a nearby restaurant where we broke for lunch.