Saturday, March 23, 2013

Philip Roth on writing, editing and awards.

Philip Roth, who many have called "America's greatest living writer" has just turned 80 and everyone (at least in certain rarefied circles) is celebrating the man and his over 50-years of literary output.

Roth was not only productive for over 50 years, many critics believe that his best work came in his 70s an estimation that only contributes to his prodigiousness.

This morning on NPR's "Weekend Edition," Roth was interviewed by the great Scott Simon, host of the show. You can listen to the 11 minutes here Roth and I strongly encourage it. There's much to learn listening to the old "pud puller" (it was he who "put the ID back in YID") much to learn about life and writing and sticking with it.

What I particularly liked was that Roth understood that "It isn't that you write down what happens to you every day — you wouldn't be a writer if you did that. But it gives you a sense of, you know, from your experience what life is like, and you weigh what you invent against your sense of actuality."

In other words, despite my quotidian posting—what I do, or what Twitterers do, or Instagrammers, is very different from what Roth does. He creates. He adds. He crafts. He makes art. We make virtually undifferentiated binary bullshit.

Second, is Roth’s grappling with the problem of “And.” That is, what word, what thought comes next—or what doesn’t come next.

In both these instances Roth isn’t just about producing. He’s about editing. Separating the crap from the good.  Something lost or all but lost, today.

Finally, there’s Roth’s view on awards and on those he’s won and hasn’t. (About the only thing he hasn’t won is the Nobel Prize for Literature.) About awards, Roth says, “Some mean a great deal to you, and when the prize befalls a certain book that you like particularly, it's wonderful. But look, receiving a prize excites the child in you, and then you go back to work the next day.”

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