Wednesday, August 16, 2017 Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

Philip Roth


American novelist.
Philip Roth
""You'll always be powerless to this girl. You'll never be in charge. There's something there," George told me, "that makes you crazy and always will. If you don't cut the connection for good, in the end that something will destroy you. You're no longer merely answering natural need with her. This is the pathology in its purest form. Look," he told me, "see it as a critic, see it from a professional point of view. You violated the law of aesthetic distance. You sentimentalized the aesthetic experience with this girl - you personalized it, you sentimentalized it, and you lost the sense of separation essential to your enjoyment. Do you know when that happened? ... I'm not against it because it's digusting. I'm against it because it's falling in love. The only obsession everyone wants: 'love.' People think that in falling in love they make themselves whole? The Platonic union of souls? I think otherwise. I think you're whole before you begin. And the love fractures you. You're whole, and then you're cracked open."
Roth quotes
I'm sure the liars as skillful and persistent and devious as you reach the point where it's the one you are lying to, and not you, who seems like the one with the serious limitations.
Roth
My God! The English language is a form of communication! Conversation isnít just crossfire where you shoot and get shot at! Where youíve got to duck for your life and aim to kill! Words arenít only bombs and bullets ó no, theyíre little gifts, containing meanings!




Roth Philip quotes
Beginning a book is unpleasant. Iím entirely uncertain about the character and the predicament, and a character in his predicament is what I have to begin with. Worse than not knowing your subject is not knowing how to treat it, because thatís finally everything. I type out beginnings and theyíre awful, more of an unconscious parody of my previous book than the breakaway from it that I want. I need something driving down the center of a book, a magnet to draw everything to itóthatís what I look for during the first months of writing something new. I often have to write a hundred pages or more before thereís a paragraph thatís alive. Okay, I say to myself, thatís your beginning, start there; thatís the first paragraph of the book. Iíll go over the first six months of work and underline in red a paragraph, a sentence, sometimes no more than a phrase, that has some life in it, and then Iíll type all these out on one page. Usually it doesnít come to more than one page, but if Iím lucky, thatís the start of page one. I look for the liveliness to set the tone. After the awful beginning come the months of freewheeling play, and after the play come the crises, turning against your material and hating the book.
Roth Philip
Each year she taught him the names of the flowers in her language and in his, and from one year to the next he could not even remember the English. For nearly thirty years Sabbath had been exiled in these mountains, and still he could name hardly anything. They didn't have this stuff where he came from. All these things growing were beside the point there. He was from the shore. There was sand and ocean, horizon and sky, daytime and nighttime - the light, the dark, the tide, the stars, the boats, the sun, the mists, the gulls. There were the jetties, the piers, the boardwalk, the booming, silent, limitless sea. Where he grew up they had the Atlantic. You could touch with your toes where America began. They lived in a stucco bungalow two short streets from the edge of America. The house. The porch. The screens. The icebox. The tub. The linoleum. The broom. The pantry. The ants. The sofa. The radio. The garage. The outside shower with the slatted wooden floor Morty had built and the drain that always clogged. In summer, the salty sea breeze and the dazling light; in September, the hurricanes; in January, the storms. They had January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, November, December. And then January. And then again January, no end to the stockpile of Januaries, of Mays, of Marches. August, December, April - name a month, and they had it in spades. They'd had endlessness. He had grown up on endlessness and his mother - in the beginning they were the same thing. His mother, his mother, his mother, his mother, his mother...?and then there was his mother, his father, Grandma, Morty, and the Atlantic at the end of the street. The ocean, the beach, the first two streets in America, then the house, and in the house a mother who never stopped whistlÓg until December 1944.? If Morty had come alive, if the endlessness had ended naturally instead of with the telegram, if after the war Morty had started doing electrical work and plumbing for people, had become a builder at the shore, gone into the construction business just as the boom in Monmouth County was beginning...Didn't matter. Take your pick. Get betrayed by the fantasy of endlessness or by the fact of finitude. No, Sabbath could only have wound up Sabbath, begging for what he was begging, bound to what he was bound, saying what he did not wish to stop himself from saying.
Philip Roth quotes
Is an intelligent human being likely to be much more than a large-scale manufacturer of misunderstanding?
Philip Roth
This indictment is a kind of fever that flares up from time to time. It flared up after "Defender of the Faith," again after "Goodbye Columbus," and understandably it went way up ó to about 107 ó after "Portnoy's Complaint." Now there's just a low-grade fever running, nothing to worry about.
Roth Philip quotes
...her breasts swam towards me like two pink-nosed fish and she let me hold them.
Roth
Only in America, Rabbi Golden, do these peasants, our mothers, get their hair dyed platinum at the age of sixty, and walk up and down Collins Avenue in Florida in pedalpushers and mink stoles ó and with opinions on every subject under the sun. It isnít their fault they were given a gift like speech ó look, if cows could talk, they would say things just as idiotic.
Roth Philip
Should he ever write an autobiography, he'd call it The Life and Death of a Male Body.
Philip Roth
They [the young] are not ďno-longers,Ē losing faculties, losing control, shamefully dispossessed from themselves, marked by deprivation and experiencing the organic rebellion staged by the body against the elderly; they are ďnot-yets,Ē with no idea how quickly things turn out another way.




Philip Roth quotes
I cannot and do not live in the world of discretion, not as a writer, anyway. I would prefer to, I assure you ó it would make life easier. But discretion is, unfortunately, not for novelists.
Philip Roth
That body is still new to her, she's still trying it out, thinking it through, a bit like a kid walking the streets with a loaded gun and deciding whether he's packing it to protect himself or to begin a life of crime.
Roth quotes
When I was first in Czechoslovakia, it occurred to me that I work in a society where as a writer everything goes and nothing matters, while for the Czech writers I met in Prague, nothing goes and everything matters. This isn't to say I wished to change places. I didn't envy their persecution and the way in which it heightens their social importance. I didn't even envy them their seemingly more valuable and serious themes. The trivialization, in the West, of much that's deadly serious in the East is itself a subject, one requiring considerable imaginative ingenuity to transform into compelling fiction.
Roth Philip
You ask if I thought my fiction had changed anything in the culture and the answer is no. Sure, there's been some scandal, but people are scandalized all the time; it's a way of life for them. It doesn't mean a thing. If you ask if I want my fiction to change anything in the culture, the answer is still no. What I want is to possess my readers while they are reading my book ó if I can, to possess them in ways that other writers don't. Then let them return, just as they were, to a world where everybody else is working to change, persuade, tempt, and control them. The best readers come to fiction to be free of all that noise, to have set loose in them the consciousness that's otherwise conditioned and hemmed in by all that isn't fiction.
Roth Philip quotes
I was trying to solve the problem of this book. (My Life as a Man) When it seemed I never would, I stopped and wrote Our Gang; when I tried again and still couldn't write it, I stopped and wrote the baseball book; then while finishing the baseball book, I stopped to write The Breast. It was as though I were blasting my way through a tunnel to reach the novel I couldn't write. Each of one's books is a blast, clearing the way for what's next.
Philip Roth
The jealously. That poison. And unprovoked. Jealous even when she tells me she's going ice-skating with her eighteen-year-old brother.
Philip Roth quotes
I'm not trying to turn you into a bourgeois, Naomi. If the bed is too luxurious, we can do it on the floor.
Philip Roth
When you publish a book, itís the worldís book. The world edits it.
Roth Philip
I don't ask writers about their work habits. I really don't care. Joyce Carol Oates says somewhere that when writers ask each other what time they start working and when they finish and how much time they take for lunch, they're actually trying to find out, "Is he as crazy as I am?" I don't need that question answered.


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