does not describe me fully
it is where to start

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Now It Is Phillip Roth Who Inspires

As mentioned before, I am editing the first draft of my latest novel. I am now just over halfway through. Among the changes made, both profound and trivial, one issue stands above all the others. It is whether I should allow one of my characters to remain as emotionally troubled as she is. The truth is, she is sometimes downright unsympathetic.

Then I found the following Phillip Roth statement in The Paris Review.

“I am not interested in writing about what they [Roth’s characters] should do for the good of the human race and pretending that’s what they do do, but writing about what they do indeed do.”

I am following his advice. The outcome, I hope, will be that my novel—to use another quote from The Paris Review interview—will have the following effect on eventual readers.

“What I want is to possess my readers while they are reading my book….”

A worthy goal indeed.

The entire interview can be read at

If you had trouble with The Paris Review link previously, it now works. I still don't know why my normal way of posting a link didn't work. It's a great interview.


A Cuban In London said...

Don't we all want that? Possess our readers, I mean? I think that most writers want to have that kind of power, enthralling their readers and keeping them mesmerised. The truth, as usual, is rather prosaic. Some passages will entertain more than others. I think the job is to have as few stinkers as possible.

I was just thinking that Phillip Roth is one of those authors who's eluded me for many years. I've never read anything by him, despite the fact that I've probably seen a couple of movies based on his novels. Strange.

Good luck with the draft.

Greetings from London.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Ah, beautiful! Always do what is best for the story and the characters. I always end up second-guessing myself, then finally listening to my gut and distancing myself enough to see what the story really needs. It's a cycle I'm always going through. :)

Malcolm R. Campbell said...

Best of luck with the continued editing as who the characters really are continues to unfold.


Judith Mercado said...

Cuban, yes, I agree. Because what is a stinker for some is rapturous for someone else, though, it is sometimes hard to decide what to do.

Michelle, characters rule. Mine is usually character driven fiction. Then I am sometimes surprised when those characters become animated and drive the plot to places I had not anticipated.

Malcolm, thanks for your good wishes.

Brent Robison said...

Despite the number of "do's" in Roth's sentence, it's a very important thing he's saying. He's talking about telling the truth. Resisting the urge to tell rosy lies to make yourself and some imaginary reader feel better. In the end, one does a much better thing for the world by telling human truth, showing real authorial empathy for an "other," rather than painting a pretty picture of emotional health or spiritual growth. It is a truly valuable contribution to lead a reader on a journey into another self.

May your editing be full of pleasure!

Judith Mercado said...

Brent, I agree that Roth's statement was not elegantly expressed, but its meaning still holds true.

Kathryn Magendie said...

Oftimes, or with me all-times, we just have to write what wants to come out and let the characters have their way!

Judith Mercado said...

Characters rule, indeed, Kathryn.

Nevine Sultan said...

As writers, it is our deepest desire to possess our readers. If we don't possess them, how can we keep them reading what we have created? Your character will decide for herself whether or not she wants to remain unsympathetic... and she will let you know with a scream!


Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

What I wouldn't give to possess my readers...of course, I need to follow your example and write my next novel to have a hope of doing that! :)

Judy, South Africa

Judith Mercado said...

Nevine, I can remember vividly times in my life when I have been possessed by a book. What a wonderful thing to envision for my current project.

Judy: following my example? Why, that gave me a giggle. Here I’ve been thinking I should do what you have done: publish an already written book. Thanks for being inspiration.

A Cuban In London said...

Thank you very much for your birthday wishes, Judith. You're not late at all. My birthday is today and I'm spending it with the people I love, which is all that I ever wanted. You're one of those bloggers I mentioned in my post who would be very welcome to come to my dream party. So, if you and your husband are ever in London, please, do let me know.

Greetings from London.

Judith Mercado said...

Cubano, that's an invitation I accept in a heartbeat!