Philip Roth quote

"Everybody has a hard job. All real work is hard. My work happened also to be undoable. Morning after morning for 50 years, I faced the next page defenseless and unprepared. Writing for me was a feat of self-preservation. If I did not do it, I would die. So I did it. Obstinacy, not talent, saved my life."

Philip Roth

Born: March 19, 1933

Occupation: Novelist

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More quotes of Philip Roth

Philip Roth

The fact remains that getting people right is not what living is all about anyway. It's getting them wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then, on careful reconsideration, getting...

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Philip Roth

Maybe the best thing would be to forget being right or wrong about people and just go along for the ride. But if you can do that -- well, lucky you.

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Philip Roth

You cannot observe people through an ideology. Your ideology observes for you.

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Philip Roth

There are no uncontaminated angels

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Philip Roth

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...

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Philip Roth

You tasted it. Isn't that enough? Of what do you ever get more than a taste? That's all we're given in life, that's all we're given of life. A taste. There is no more.

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Philip Roth

A Jewish man with his parents alive is half the time a helpless infant!

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Philip Roth

He is not simply looking into the mirror because he is transfixed by what he sees. Rather, the artist’s success depends as much as anything on his powers of detachment, on de-narcissizing himself…...

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Philip Roth

The legend engraved on the face of the Jewish nickel- on the body of every Jewish child!- not IN GOD WE TRUST, but SOMEDAY YOU'LL BE A PARENT AND YOU'LL KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE.

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Philip Roth

Writing turns you into somebody who's always wrong. the illusion that you may get it right someday is the perversity that draws you on. What else could? As pathological phenomena go, it doesn't completely...

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Philip Roth

Everyone becomes a part of history whether they like it or not and whether they know it or not.

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Philip Roth

You can no more make someone tell the truth than you can force someone to love you.

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Philip Roth

In my childhood I led the life of a sage, when I grew up I started climbing trees

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Philip Roth

Oh, to be a center fielder, a center fielder- and nothing more

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Philip Roth

I do not say correct or savory. I do not say seemly or even natural. I say serious. Sensationally serious. Unspeakably serious. Solemnly, recklessly, blissfully serious.

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Philip Roth

We leave a stain, we leave a trail, we leave our imprint. Impurity, cruelty, abuse, error, excrement, semen - there’s no other way to be here. Nothing to do with disobedience. Nothing to do with grace...

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Philip Roth

Everybody who flashed the signs of loyalty he took to be loyal. Everybody who flashed the signs of intelligence he took to be intelligent. And so he had failed to see into his daughter, failed to see into...

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Philip Roth

It's absolutely fantastic. When I was a kid, my father was always trying to tell me how to be a man, and he said to me, I was maybe 9, and he said to me, 'Philip, whenever you take a nap, take your clothes...

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Philip Roth

Fear tends to manifest itself much more quickly than greed, so volatile markets tend to be on the downside. In up markets, volatility tends to gradually decline.

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Philip Roth

Should you protect profits? Yes. But run for the hills? No.

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Philip Roth

Unless one is inordinately fond of subordination, one is always at war.

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Philip Roth

Let's hope the first comes first.

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Philip Roth

Everybody has a hard job. All real work is hard. My work happened also to be undoable. Morning after morning for 50 years, I faced the next page defenseless and unprepared. Writing for me was a feat of...

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Philip Roth

I did the best I could with what I had.

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Philip Roth

Fear presides over these memories, a perpetual fear.Of course no childhood is without its terrors, yet I wonder if I would have been a less frightened boy if Lindbergh hadn't been president or if I hadn't...

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Philip Roth

I have a slogan I use when I get anxious writing, which happens quite a bit: ‘the ordeal is part of the commitment.’ It’s one of my mantras. It makes a lot of things doable.

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Philip Roth

And as he spoke, I was thinking, 'the kind of stories that people turn life into, the kind of lives people turn stories into.

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Philip Roth

When the whole world doesn't believe in God, it'll be a great place.

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Philip Roth

People were standing up everywhere shouting, "This is me! This is me!" Every time you looked at them they stood up and told you who they were, and the truth of it was that they had no more idea who or...

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Philip Roth

How easy life is when it's easy, and how hard when it's hard.

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Philip Roth

Stop worrying about growing old. And think about growing up.

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Philip Roth

American society [...] not only sanctions gross and unfair relations among men, but it encourages them. Now, can that be denied? No. Rivalry, competition, envy, jealousy, all that is malignant in human...

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Philip Roth

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...

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Philip Roth

All that we don't know is astonishing. Even more astonishing is what passes for knowing.

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Philip Roth

Life is just a short period of time in which you are alive.

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Philip Roth

Old age isn't a battle; old age is a massacre.

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Philip Roth

I was gushing and I knew it. I surprised myself with my eagerness to please, felt myself saying too much, explaining too much, overinvolved and overexcited in the way you are when you're a kid and you...

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Philip Roth

The pleasure isn't in owning the person. The pleasure is this. Having another contender in the room with you.

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Philip Roth

How Far back must we go to discover the beginning of trouble?

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Philip Roth

For a pure sense of being tumultuously alive, you can't beat the nasty side of existence.

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Philip Roth

I often have to write a hundred pages or more before there's a paragraph that's alive.

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Philip Roth

As for himself, however hateful life was, it was hateful in a home and not in the gutter. Many Americans hated their homes. The number of homeless in America couldn't touch the number of Americans who...

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Philip Roth

Nothing bad can happen to a writer. Everything is material.

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Philip Roth

People are unjust to anger - it can be enlivening and a lot of fun.

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Philip Roth

Never in his life had occasion to ask himself, "Why are things the way they are?" Why should he bother, when the way they were was always perfect? Why are things the way they are? The question to which...

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Philip Roth

Obviously the facts are never just coming at you but are incorporated by an imagination that is formed by your previous experience. Memories of the past are not memories of facts but memories of your imaginings...

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Philip Roth

I cannot and do not live in the world of discretion, not as a writer, anyway. I would prefer to, I assure you - it would make life easier. But discretion is, unfortunately, not for novelists.

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Philip Roth

There’s no remaking reality... Just take it as it comes. Hold your ground and take it as it comes. There’s no other way.

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Philip Roth

To become a celebrity is to become a brand name. There is Ivory Soap, Rice Krispies, and Philip Roth. Ivory is the soap that floats; Rice Krispies the breakfast cereal that goes snap-crackle-pop; Philip...

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Philip Roth

I think you're a wonder. You're beautiful. You're mature. You are, I admit, vastly more experienced than I am. That's what threw me. I was thrown. Forgive me.

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Philip Roth

Nothing has a more sinister effect on art than the artist's desire to prove that he's good. The terrible temptation of idealism! You must achieve mastery over your idealism, over your virtue as well as...

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Philip Roth

It's best to give while your hand is still warm.

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Philip Roth

He was no more, freed from being, entering into nowhere without even knowing it. Just as he'd feared from the start.

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Philip Roth

I kept waiting for him to lay bare something more than this pointed unobjectionableness, but all that rose to the surface was more surface

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Philip Roth

I’m interested in what people do with the chaos in their lives and how they respond to it, and simultaneously what they do with what they feel like are limitations. If they push against these limitations,...

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Philip Roth

I am marked like a road map from head to toe with my repressions. You can travel the length and breadth of my body over superhighways of shame and inhibition and fear.

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Philip Roth

You go to someone and you think, 'I'll tell him this.' But why? The impulse is that the telling is going to relieve you. And that's why you feel awful later--you've relieved yourself, and if it truly is...

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Philip Roth

Is an intelligent human being likely to be much more than a large-scale manufacturer of misunderstanding?

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Philip Roth

What I have in mind when I start to write could fit inside an acorn-an acorn, moreover, that rarely if ever grows into an oak. Write fiction and you relinquish reason. You start with an acorn and you end...

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Philip Roth

A Jew without Jews, without Judaism, without Zionism, without Jewishness, without a temple or an army or even a pistol, a Jew clearly without a home, just the object itself, like a glass or an apple.

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Philip Roth

A Jewish man with parents alive is a fifteen-year-old boy, and will remain a fifteen-year-old boy until they die!

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Philip Roth

For discipline is imposed not just on oneself but on those in one's orbit.

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Philip Roth

It isn't that you subordinate your ideas to the force of the facts in autobiography but that you construct a sequence of stories to bind up the facts with a persuasive hypothesis that unravels your history's...

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Philip Roth

When I was a child... I was watching a snowstorm, and hopefully asked, 'Momma, do we believe in winter?'

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Philip Roth

It’s amazing what lies people can sustain behind the mask of their real faces.

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Philip Roth

I was a biography in constant motion, memory to the marrow of my bones.

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Philip Roth

There is truth and then again there is truth. For all that the world is full of people who go around believing they've got you or your neighbor figured out, there really is no bottom to what is not known....

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Philip Roth

Too late, but I understand. That we don't perish of understanding everything too late, that is a miracle. But we do perish of that -- of just that.

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Philip Roth

This is what you know about someone you have to hate: he charges you with his crime and castigates himself in you.

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Philip Roth

You be greater than your feelings. I don't demand this of you - life does. Otherwise you'll be washed away by feelings. You'll be washed out to sea and never seen again.

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Philip Roth

The danger with hatred is, once you start in on it, you get a hundred times more than you bargained for. Once you start, you can't stop.

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Philip Roth

Literature takes a habit of mind that has disappeared. It requires silence, some form of isolation, and sustained concentration in the presence of an enigmatic thing.

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Philip Roth

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...

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Philip Roth

The ordeal is part of the commitment" Esquire Interview 10/10

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Philip Roth

I came to New York and in only hours, New York did what it does to people: awakened the possibilities. Hope breaks out.

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Philip Roth

Being in the dark from sentence to sentence is what convinces me to go on.

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Philip Roth

Doctor doctor, what do you say, lets put the id back in yid

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Philip Roth

a father for whom everything is an unshakable duty, for whom there is a right way and a wrong way and nothing in between, a father whose compound of ambitions, biases, and beliefs is so unruffled by careful...

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Philip Roth

And since we don’t just forget things because they don’t matter but also forget things because they matter too much because each of us remembers and forgets in a pattern whose labyrinthine windings...

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Philip Roth

That can happen when people die, the argument with them drops away and people so flawed while they were drawing breath that at times they were all but unbearable now assert themselves in the most appealing...

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Philip Roth

He had learned the worst lesson that life can teach - that it makes no sense.

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Philip Roth

I turn sentences around. That's my life. I write a sentence and then I turn it around. Then I look at it and turn it around again...

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Philip Roth

The signore...wishes her to begin at the beginning.

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Philip Roth

You put too much stock in human intelligence, it doesn't annihilate human nature.

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Philip Roth

Don't judge it. Just write it. Don't judge it. It's not for you to judge it.

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Philip Roth

I write fiction and I'm told it's autobiography, I write autobiography and I'm told it's fiction, so since I'm so dim and they're so smart, let them decide what it is or it isn't.

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Philip Roth

Sheer Playfulness and Deadly Seriousness are my closest friends.

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Philip Roth

Actually we did not have the feelings we said we had until we spoke them--at least I didn't; to phrase them was to invent them and own them.

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Philip Roth

Memories of the past are not memories of facts but memories of your imaginings of the facts.

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Philip Roth

Nothing lasts and yet nothing passes either, and nothing passes just because nothing lasts.

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Philip Roth

Literature got me into this mess and literature is going to have to get me out of it.

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Philip Roth

Everybody else is working to change, persuade, tempt and control them. The best readers come to fiction to be free of all that noise.

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Philip Roth

--nor had I understood til then how the shameless vanity of utter fools can so strongly determine the fate of others

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Philip Roth

You have a conscience, and a conscience is a valuable attribute, but not if it begins to make you think you were to blame for what is far beyond the scope of your responsibility.

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Philip Roth

I am the Raskolnikov of jerking off – the sticky evidence is everywhere!

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Philip Roth

The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.

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Philip Roth

Just like those who are incurably ill, the aged know everything about their dying except exactly when.

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Philip Roth

There were many hours when I never quite know how I'd gotten there or why I stayed.

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Philip Roth

We live in an age in which the imagination of the novelist is helpless against what he knows he is going to read in tomorrow's newspaper.

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Philip Roth

Doctor, I had never had anybody like her in my life, she was the fulfillment of my most lascivious adolescent dreams– but marry her, can she be serious? You see, for all her preening and perfumes, she...

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Philip Roth

My God! The English language is a form of communication! Conversation isn't just crossfire where you shoot and get shot at! Where you've got to duck for your life and aim to kill! Words aren't only bombs...

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Philip Roth

Dreams? If only they had been! But I don't need dreams, Doctor, that's why I hardly have them—because I have this life instead. With me it all happens in broad daylight!

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Philip Roth

Because that is when you love somebody - when you see them being game in the face of the worst. Not courageous. Not heroic. Just game.

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Philip Roth

Like all enjoyable things, you see, it has unenjoyable parts to it.

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“Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.”

― Dr. Seuss