He said he had four studies in his house so we can imagine him writing a poem in one of his studies before breakfast, then in the next study writing a hundred pages of a novel, then in the afternoon he writes a long and brilliant essay for the New Yorker, and then in the fourth study he blurts out a couple of poems. John Updike must have been possessed of a purer energy than any writer since DH Lawrence.
I've seen it suggested that such prodigies suffer from an enviable condition called 'pressure on the cortex'. It's as if they have within them an underground spring which is always on the point of eruption. He has produced an enormous body of work. He is certainly one of the great American novelists of the 20th century.
Nabokov spoke like a child
Spontaneous eloquence seems to me a miracle," confessed Vladimir Nabokov in 1962. He took up the point more personally in his foreword to Strong Opinions (1973): "I have never delivered to my audience one scrap of information not prepared in typescript beforehand … My hemmings and hawings over the telephone cause long-distance callers to switch from their native English to pathetic French.
"At parties, if I attempt to entertain people with a good story, I have to go back to every other sentence for oral erasures and inserts … nobody should ask me to submit to an interview … It has been tried at least twice in the old days, and once a recording machine was present, and when the tape was rerun and I had finished laughing, I knew that never in my life would I repeat that sort of performance."
We sympathise. And most literary types, probably, would hope for inclusion somewhere or other on Nabokov's sliding scale: "I think like a genius, I write like a distinguished author, and I speak like a child."