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Philip Roth quotes Showing 1-30 of 869

“Everybody else is working to change, persuade, tempt and control them. The best readers come to fiction to be free of all that noise.”
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 love fractures you. You're whole, and then you're cracked open. ”
Philip Roth, The Dying Animal
tags: love
“You fight your superficiality, your shallowness, so as to try to come at people without unreal expectations, without an overload of bias or hope or arrogance, as untanklike as you can be, sans cannon and machine guns and steel plating half a foot thick; you come at them unmenacingly on your own ten toes instead of tearing up the turf with your caterpillar treads, take them on with an open mind, as equals, man to man, as we used to say, and yet you never fail to get them wrong. You might as well have the brain of a tank. You get them wrong before you meet them, while you're anticipating meeting them; you get them wrong while you're with them; and then you go home to tell somebody else about the meeting and you get them all wrong again. Since the same generally goes for them with you, the whole thing is really a dazzling illusion. ... 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 them wrong again. That's how we know we're alive: we're wrong. 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.”
Philip Roth, American Pastoral
“He had learned the worst lesson that life can teach - that it makes no sense.”
Philip Roth, American Pastoral
“You put too much stock in human intelligence, it doesn't annihilate human nature.”
Philip Roth, American Pastoral
“The pleasure isn't in owning the person. The pleasure is this. Having another contender in the room with you.”
Philip Roth, The Human Stain
“Stop worrying about growing old. And think about growing up.”
Philip Roth, The Dying Animal
“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 them wrong again. That's how we know we're alive: we're wrong.”
Philip Roth, American Pastoral
“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.”
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.”
Philip Roth, The Human Stain
tags: love
“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.”
Philip Roth, The Dying Animal
tags: life
“These girls with old gents don't do it despite the age—they're drawn to the age, they do it for the age. Why? In Consuela's case, because the vast difference in age gives her permission to submit, I think. My age and my
status give her, rationally, the license to surrender, and surrendering in bed is a not unpleasant sensation. But simultaneously, to give yourself over intimately to a much, much older man provides this sort of younger woman with authority of a kind she cannot get in a sexual arrangement with a younger man. She gets both the pleasures of submission and the pleasures of mastery.”
Philip Roth, The Dying Animal
“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 they take for lunch, they’re actually trying to find out, "Is he as crazy as I am?" I don’t need that question answered.”
Philip Roth
“No matter how much you know, no matter how much you think, no matter how much you plot and you connive and you plan, you're not superior to sex. It's a very risky game. A man wouldn't have two-thirds of the problems he has if he didn't venture off to get fucked. It's sex that disorders our normally ordered lives.”
Philip Roth, The Dying Animal
“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 tragic and awful, it's not better, it's worse---the exhibitionism inherent to a confession has only made the misery worse.”
Philip Roth, American Pastoral
“How easy life is when it's easy, and how hard when it's hard.”
Philip Roth, The Professor of Desire
“Life is just a short period of time in which you are alive.”
Philip Roth, American Pastoral
“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.”
Philip Roth, Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories
“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.”
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 what they were than he had. They believed their flashing signs, too. They ought to be standing up and shouting, "This isn't me! This isn't me!" They would if they had any decency. "This isn't me!" Then you might know how to proceed through the flashing bullshit of this world.”
Philip Roth, American Pastoral
“You cannot observe people through an ideology. Your ideology observes for you.”
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.”
Philip Roth, Indignation
“You get them wrong before you meet them, while you're anticipating meeting them; you get them wrong while you're with them; and then you go home to tell somebody else about the meeting and you get them all wrong again. Since the same generally goes for them with you, the whole thing is really a dazzling illusion. ... 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 them wrong again. That's how we know we're alive: we're wrong. 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.”
Philip Roth, American Pastoral
“--nor had I understood til then how the shameless vanity of utter fools can so strongly determine the fate of others”
Philip Roth, The Plot Against America
“You fight your superficiality, your shallowness, so as to try to come at people without unreal expectations, without an overload of bias or hope or arrogance, as untanklike as you can be, sans cannon and machine guns and steel plating half a foot thick; you come at them unmenacingly on your own ten toes instead of tearing up the turf with your caterpillar treads, take them on with an open mind, as equals, man to man, as we used to say, and yet you never fail to get them wrong. You might as well have the "brain" of a tank. You get them wrong before you meet them, while you're anticipating meeting them; you get them wrong while you're with them; and then you go home to tell somebody else about the meeting and you get them all wrong again. Since the same generally goes for them with you, the whole thing is really a dazzling illusion empty of all perception, an astonishing farce of misperception. And yet what are we to do about this terribly significant business of "other people," which gets bled of the significance we think it has and takes on instead a significance that is ludicrous, so ill-equipped are we all to envision one another's interior workings and invisible aims? Is everyone to go off and lock the door and sit secluded like the lonely writers do, in a soundproof cell, summoning people out of words and then proposing that these word people are closer to the real thing than the real people that we mangle with our ignorance every day? 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 them wrong again. That's how we know we're alive: we're wrong. 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.”
Philip Roth, American Pastoral
“All that we don’t know is astonishing. Even more astonishing is what passes for knowing.”
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 or salvation or redemption. It’s in everyone. Indwelling. Inherent. Defining. The stain that is there before its mark.”
Philip Roth, The Human Stain
“Nothing lasts and yet nothing passes either, and nothing passes just because nothing lasts.”
Philip Roth, The Human Stain
“It's best to give while your hand is still warm.”
Philip Roth, Everyman
“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 and bullets —no, they're little gifts, containing meanings!”
Philip Roth

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