Top Quotes by Philip Roth

By | March 30, 2018

Sheer Playfulness and Deadly Seriousness are my closest friends.

Philip Roth

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

Philip Roth

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

Philip Roth

It was my great problem to solve: how to write a book, you know. And after you write one, you have to write another to prove to yourself you can do it again.

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.

Philip Roth

Let me tell you about the nap. 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 – I was maybe nine – he said, ‘Philip, whenever you take a nap, take your clothes off and put a blanket over you, and you’re going to sleep better.’ Well, as with everything, he was right.

Philip Roth

As for the kind of writer I am? I am who I don’t pretend to be.

Philip Roth

I needed my life as a springboard for my fiction. I have to have something solid under my feet when I write. I’m not a fantasist. I bounce up and down on the diving board, and I go into the water of fiction. But I’ve got to begin in life so I can pump life into it throughout.

Philip Roth

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

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 of the facts.

Philip Roth

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

Philip Roth

I’m not angry; I write about angry characters. When I’m doing that, I’m happy. Just like when I’m writing about Mickey Sabbath being lustful, I’m not feeling lustful; I’m happy.

Philip Roth

Writing is frustration – it’s daily frustration, not to mention humiliation. It’s just like baseball: you fail two-thirds of the time.

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!

Philip Roth

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

Philip Roth

As I see it, my focus has never been on masculine power rampant and triumphant but rather on the antithesis: masculine power impaired.

Philip Roth

A writer has to be driven crazy to help him to see. A writer needs his poisons.

Philip Roth

Literature isn’t a moral beauty contest. Its power arises from the authority and audacity with which the impersonation is pulled off; the belief it inspires is what counts.

Philip Roth

My traducers propound my alleged malefaction as though I have spewed venom on women for half a century. But only a madman would go to the trouble of writing 31 books in order to affirm his hatred.

Philip Roth

With the draft, everybody was involved. Everybody was fodder. When you got to be 21, 22 and graduated from college, for two years your life stopped. If you had been running in the direction of your life, you had to stop and do this other thing which was, if not menacing, just plain boring.

Philip Roth

You write differently in each book. It may appear to be similar to readers, but you’re a different writer in each book because you haven’t approached that subject before. And every subject brings out a different prose strain in you. Fundamentally, yes, you’re contained as one writer. But you have various voices. Like a good actor.

Philip Roth

For me, the passing of time has provided me with subjects I never had before. Subjects I can now look at from a historical perspective. Like the anti-communist era in America. I lived through that. I was a boy; I didn’t find a way to write about it until many years later. The same with the Vietnam War.

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.

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.

Philip Roth

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

Philip Roth

When you publish a book, it’s the world’s book. The world edits it.

Philip Roth

History… is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.

Philip Roth

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

Philip Roth

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

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.

Philip Roth

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

Philip Roth

Nothing keeps its promise.

Philip Roth

Fluency can be a sign that nothing is happening; fluency can actually be my signal to stop, while being in the dark from sentence to sentence is what convinces me to go on.

Philip Roth

For all I know, I am beginning with the ending. My page one can wind up a year later as page two hundred, if it’s still even around.

Philip Roth

I work all day, morning and afternoon, just about every day. If I sit there like that for two or three years, at the end I have a book.

Philip Roth

I don’t ask writers about their work habits. I really don’t care.

Philip Roth

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

At night, I read. I read for two hours. I just finished a marvelous book by Louise Erdrich, ‘The Round House.’ But mostly I read 20th-century history and biography. I lived then. I was either a child or at school or at work.

Philip Roth

I said the screen will kill the reader, and it has: the movie screen in the beginning, the television screen, and now the coup de grace, the computer screen.

Philip Roth

Making fake biography, false history, concocting a half-imaginary existence out of the actual drama of my life is my life.

Philip Roth

I don’t know any writer for whom it comes easily. Maybe John Updike – a story would just seem to come to him whole, you know, out of a personal experience. But the rest of us, I think, are not so lucky, and I had to work hard, yeah.

Philip Roth

Of course you bank on your experience, but as a sounding board. It isn’t that you write down what happens to you every day. You wouldn’t be a writer if you did that.

Philip Roth

I have no desire to write fiction. I did what I did, and it’s done. There’s more to life than writing and publishing fiction. There is another way entirely, amazed as I am to discover it at this late date.

Philip Roth

The novelist’s obsession, moment by moment, is with language: finding the right next word.

Philip Roth

If I don’t measure up as an American writer, at least leave me to my delusion.

Philip Roth

That’s what you’re looking for as a writer when you’re working. You’re looking for your own freedom. To lose your inhibition to delve deep into your memory and experiences and life and then to find the prose that will persuade the reader.

Philip Roth

Novel-writing is, for the novelist, a game of let’s pretend.

Philip Roth

To read a novel requires a certain amount of concentration, focus, devotion to the reading. If you read a novel in more than two weeks, you don’t read the novel, really.

Philip Roth

I think I write and publish as often as I do because I can’t bear being without a book to work on… I don’t feel I have this to say or that to say or this story to tell, but I know I want to be occupied with the writing process while I’m living.

Philip Roth

I’m not good at finding ‘encouraging’ features in American culture. I doubt that aesthetic literacy has much of a future here.

Philip Roth

Routinely, when I finish a book, I think ‘What will I do? Where will I get an idea?’ And a kind of low-level panic sets in.

Philip Roth

I’ve stopped reading fiction. I don’t read it at all. I read other things: history, biography. I don’t have the same interest in fiction that I once did.

Philip Roth

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