Friday, May 25, 2018


Every once in a while a little story comes along to remind me how hard the people who make to the top of most fields work. This is a memory of novelist Philip Roth:
I remember when Philip Roth told me he’d stopped writing fiction. He was talking with my wife and me, and — looking honestly happy and relaxed about his new situation — he said, “Now I can have a glass of orange juice in the morning and read the newspaper.” And I remember thinking, You could have had your orange juice after “Portnoy’s Complaint” or “The Ghostwriter,” that you probably earned at least a scan of the A-section by book 10 or 12 or 14. . . .

Philip once told me about finishing a novel, and how, with a new book under his belt and nothing to do, he’d walked out the door of his Manhattan apartment to the American Museum of Natural History, a few steps away. He’d strolled around the displays and told me that, standing in the museum’s Hall of Ocean Life, he’d gazed up at the giant model of a blue whale hanging from the ceiling and thought, “What am I supposed to do, look at a whale all day?” And so he went back up to his apartment and started writing again.

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