"Are you accusing me of being commercial? Because I'm not."
"No, you fucking idiot, I'm talking about your total lack of spine. The academy only reckognizes ass-licking, nonauthentic, pseudo-intellectual, grade-A bullshit like yours. The frightening thing is that you believe in your bullshit. It's actually your worldview."
A nauseating fatigue set in. Why had I come to Leon's? To please him? To network? To remind people I have just published a new book? Zim needed an answer. "This is a rhetorical point, one I can't dispute because it's based on vagaries and syllogisms. You are jealous of me, so your entire argument is poisoned."
How could I be jealous of a man who doesn't even know what he is? A man who writes and writes and writes only the most empty and and soulless self-reflexive prose. You haven't written one honest word in twenty years. In your coward's heart, you know that. When did you last take a risk? When?" His lips were screwed into a sneer.
I smiled to cover my anger and said, "It's moot. I'm not writing anymore. I have heart problems."
But Zim wouldn't quit. "No, my friend, what you're saying is, 'You and me, Zim, deep down, we're the same.' But that's not true. We live different lives, Richard. It's wonderful to be rich and famous. It's intoxicating. And the intoxication has ruined you."
"Intoxication? Speak for yourself."
"I will, my friend, my good old friend. For myself and for you. Because when I leave here today, you won't give me another thought. You will return to your favorite topic, yourself. But nobodies like me, we must keep you in mind always. We have no choice."