Saturday, May 20, 2006

Why Writers Are Such a Joy to Live With

'...I turn sentences around. That's my life. I write a sentence and then I turn it around. Then I look at it and I turn it around again. Then I have lunch. Then I come back in and write another sentence. Then I have tea and turn the new sentence around. Then I read the two sentences over and turn them both around. Then I lie down on my sofa and think. Then I get up and throw them out and start from the beginning. And if I knock off from this routine for as long as a day, I'm frantic with boredom and a sense of waste. Sundays I have breakfast late and read the papers with Hope. Then we go for a walk in the hills, and I'm haunted by the loss of all that good time. I wake up Sunday mornings and I'm nearly crazy at the prospect of all those unusable hours. I'm restless, I'm bad tempered, but she's a human being too, you see, so I go. To avoid trouble she makes me leave my watch at home. The result is that I look at my wrist instead. We're walking, she's talking, then I look at my wrist--and that generally does it, if my foul mood hasn't already. She thows in the sponge and we come home. And at home what is there to distinguish Sunday from Thursday! I sit back down at my little Olivetti and start looking at sentences and turning them around. And I ask myself, Why is there no way but this for me to fill my hours?
--from Philip Roth's 1979 novella, The Ghost Writer. For a smart review of his latest, Everyman, check out this New York Review of Books take, in which the author nicely argues that "an autumnal frost has set in" on Roth and his writing as he has hit his 70s.


At 2:27 PM, Blogger Jeff Hess said...

Shalom John,

One of my favorites is:

Writing is so much work. I spent all morning taking a comma out, and all afternoon putting it back in. -- Oscar Wilde.



At 9:14 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

All this stuff seems a tad precious to me, Jeff. I'm in complete agreement with Garrison Keilor, in that great recent piece of his which you linked to from, where he told writers to quit their whining, and try to imagine how hard real jobs are, such as teaching. In the end, writing is a privilege, and anyone who makes a living from it ought to acknowledge that.

At 7:27 AM, Blogger tinotchka said...

Oh, Jeff and John and Philip!

Yes, yes, and yes.

At 10:09 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

My oh my, but that's cryptic. But I'm just glad you've visited.

At 9:53 PM, Blogger tinotchka said...

It means you're all right.

And I'm glad I visited, too!

At 1:20 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Got it, Tina. Many thanks.


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