I rarely, if ever, had another book in mind while I was writing the previous book. Each book starts from ashes, really.
A Jewish man with parents alive is a fifteen-year-old boy, and will remain a fifteen-year-old boy until they die!
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.
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.
I'm not good at finding 'encouraging' features in American culture. I doubt that aesthetic literacy has much of a future here.
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.
Is an intelligent human being likely to be much more than a large-scale manufacturer of misunderstanding?
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.
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.
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.
Writing is frustration - it's daily frustration, not to mention humiliation. It's just like baseball: you fail two-thirds of the time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I'm an Obama supporter. And if you're an Obama supporter, that means you had a hard time during the Bush years.
Making fake biography, false history, concocting a half-imaginary existence out of the actual drama of my life is my life.
Everybody else is working to change, persuade, tempt and control them. The best readers come to fiction to be free of all that noise.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I do the same kind of rewriting that I do in the shorts that I do in long books - and that is a lot. The book really comes to life in the rewriting.
All that we don't know is astonishing. Even more astonishing is what passes for knowing.
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.
Just like those who are incurably ill, the aged know everything about their dying except exactly when.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sheer Playfulness and Deadly Seriousness are my closest friends.
The novelist's obsession, moment by moment, is with language: finding the right next word.
As for the kind of writer I am? I am who I don't pretend to be.
Unless one is inordinately fond of subordination, one is always at war.
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.
If I don't measure up as an American writer, at least leave me to my delusion.
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.
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.
When you publish a book, it's the world's book. The world edits it.
I don't ask writers about their work habits. I really don't care.
A writer has to be driven crazy to help him to see. A writer needs his poisons.
My goal would be to find a big, fat subject that would occupy me to the end of my life, and when I finish it, I'll die. What's agony is starting; I hate starting them. I just want to keep writing now and end when it ends.