Posts Tagged ‘#writing’

Philip Roth and Me, A Micro-Memoir

June 8, 2014

I told this as a twitter story. Posted here without hashtags. This story is 100 per cent true.

Philip Roth and Me. A mico-memoir.

1993

Just married. 25 years old. Move into pre-war on Upper West Side of NYC.

Get in elevator one night, with my wife, Amy–and standing there, looking every bit like himself, is…Philip Roth.

Yep. Philip Fucking Roth. And I can’t help myself.

“Mr. Roth,” I say as the elevator man puts the thing in gear, “Portnoy’s Complaint is a very important book to me.”

Well, my son, did it improve your character?” Roth asks as the elevator arrives at my floor.

I gesture towards Amy and, thinking myself clever say, “you’ll have to ask her.”

We step onto our floor. But just before the doors close, Roth leans out and says, “Well, it’s not supposed to.” And chuckles.

Leaving me to look like an idiot in front of my 21 year old bride.

Turns out that Roth lives 10 floors above us.

Every morning on the subway to work back then (this is before I became a writer), I’d read. And I read two or three novels a week.

All sorts of shit.

One morning I was reading some sort of popular fiction. Real crap that I dug. And as I got to the front door I hesitated.
What if Roth saw the book? He’d think I was even more of a schmuck than he already did.

So I, in a fit of intellectual insecurity, left the book at home.

Of course, he wasn’t in the elevator. And I had nothing to read all day.

Worse, The train home gets stuck en route and I have nothing to read for the 45 minutes we are stranded.

All I do is sit there and stew at myself–how can I be both so intellectually insecure and also so egotistic as to…

1) care what Roth thinks about what I read and 2) imagine that he would either notice or give a shit at all.

This was Philip Goddamn Roth.

Why the fuck would he care what the kid in 5B was ingesting through the eyes?

And also, what were the fucking chances we would run into each other. I had still only seen him seven times total in the 3 years.

I resolve to read whatever the fuck I wanted from them on and to just generally calm the fuck down about all this crap.

So after that, I’d read whatever wherever.

Except. One morning I was carrying another popular novel. I got to the front door. Hesitated.

Remembered my promise to myself and kept moving. e

The elevator door opened. In I walked. And standing there was the man himself.

I quickly leaned against the wall, sliding the book behind my leg.

But he noticed. Hard. ”Eh, eh. Uh uh. What’ve you got there? What are you hiding?” said Roth.

“Um…this…” said I.

“Ah yes…” the great man said, already going into a strong Roman
accent, “Mario Puzo…” and he rolls the R sound…

And smiling wide, he continues, “The Last Don, one of the greats…”

“Well, I’m just…”

“It’s no use, young man. Curt here,” and he points to the elevator man, “is on assignment. He keeps records for me.

No matter what you do, you can’t hide! I always know what you’re reading.”

And then the elevator hits bottom, Roth gets out, and I am left standing there, all alone with Curt, feeling like a total ass.

I hear Roth laughing as he strolls the fuck out of the front door of the building, into his town car…

Leaving me standing in the lobby, not moving, book clenched so hard in my hand as to cause my fingers to hurt.


I just saw that Philip Roth died today. RIP, sir. You were one of the best who ever did the thing. And could bust balls with the best of em, too.

Fire Away

December 6, 2013

One of the entertainers I most admire in the world just followed me on Twitter. This is someone who not only makes me laugh but whose world view and attitude, and the philosophical underpinnings that drive them, inspire me. Someone on my shortest list of people I’d want to have dinner with. I got a quick ego boost when I saw his name pop up, an even bigger one when I saw how few people he follows. But then, the moment I next went to tweet, dread set in. 

What if I lose him, I thought? What if he followed me because he liked one Vine he saw, that Penn retweeted, but then, if he sees a ramen tweet, or if a joke about The Knicks falls flat, maybe he’s gone.

When he wasn’t following me, fine. He didn’t know who I was, didn’t connect me with my movies, whatever. 

But now, now that he’s in,  I face rejection. And not just garden variety rejection. Narrow, specific rejection from someone I put on a pedestal.  How am I supposed to deal with that? 

Guess I’ll never tweet. 

Or I’ll really workshop the next tweet. 

Maybe, yeah, this is it, I’ll test market the tweet, send it as a Facebook status first or email it to a few friends. And then, if a high enough percentage of them laugh, I’ll tweet it. 

That’s definitely a way to go. Crafty. Safe. 

And absolutely crippling. My entire creative journey has been about writing without fear, expressing myself without regard for what any one person will think of it. I get an idea, work on it to the best of my ability and fire away. And yet here I found myself, ready to tweet something–a tweet, mind you, something so small, insignificant and temporary as to barely exist–and holding back. 

And isn’t that something we all do to ourselves sometimes. Don’t we all sort of set ourselves up for defeat, tell ourselves disempowering stories, hesitate out of fear?  I think we do. And I think one of the most important steps an artist can take is to get to a place where s/he’s not scared of losing her audience. 

The person you’re scared to lose might be your wife or your father if you finished that short story you have hidden in a secret folder on your laptop, or those guys sitting in the front at the comedy club who will laugh at your dick jokes but might boo you if you get political. Or maybe you’re worried that if the YA audience knew you really wanted to write thrillers, they’d never read you again. 

Whatever. Whomever. Fuck ’em. They will go on the ride with you or they won’t. But the ride is yours. And the time is now.

Go.

As for me: I’ll tweet away. And if he unfollows, he unfollows. I won’t shed a tear (but I will curse. Very loudly).


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