Feb 10, 2013

Sirrr --- "Couldn't agree more"

More Sirrr-wise, this time as a comment on the Daily Beast (scroll down). Let us explain. Andrew Sullivan has a post on Philip Roth, who, in a NY restaurant, got accosted (if that's the word) by young, budding (and handsome) author Julian Trepper, who has just published his first novel "Balls" (balls). Trepper presents Roth with a copy of said Balls, Roth jumps up, and shoots into a tirade against writing:

“I would quit while you’re ahead. Really, it’s an awful field. Just torture. Awful. You write and write, and you have to throw almost all of it away because it’s not any good. I would say just stop now. You don’t want to do this to yourself. That’s my advice to you.”
Julian has reported on this in the Paris review and on the pages of the Daily Beast, where he's speculating about Roth's career as a bored ex-writer (Roth announced recently he had quit writing), and posits that writing is a very practical way out of boredom. 

Julian Trepper, Philip Roth

And her's our Sirrr-letter:

  Sirrr --- couldn't agree more. Boredom is the alternative to writing, or, more precisely, writing is the alternative to boredom. I'm a retired academic living in a retirement community in the south of France, and people here are bored, bored, so bored it could actually kill them. You need an inner life in order to live a good life, and while there might be other things to help you find it or live it, writing, as Julian so coyly explains, provides a practical and pragmatic way to get one, an inner life.

Folks, as an academic, I always knew about "writing," and I can tell you from experience now that there isn't much difference between writing an academic paper and writing gay pornography, especially when it’s the first draft, when the creative juices really need to flow.

OK, so. Let me tell you. The day I decided to write fiction, I found Jesus. Since I'm writing gay pornography, I'm wearing the flaccid smile of the truly reborn, my wrinkles have disappeared, my hair has grown, my penis has grown, Jesus it is. 60% of the time I'm on a high, the high people normally reach only after three glasses of champagne. And the first novel is almost finished. The first draft was finished in under five month (the first draft of my Ph.D. took two years).

First draft, yes. The revision process is different. When you're revising an academic text, you can rely on a stable mental model of the world, i.e., your own version of Truth. With fiction, there's no such thing, it's fiction, invented, made up, everything is up for grabs, anything can happen, so you have to juggle and just hope that no ball (or knife) will drop. So I'm slightly less euphoric now, but still, it's great, I'm having the best time of my life, and when I feel down I just think about the next novel I'm going to write and feel tipsy again.

Writing folks! Roth will soon discover that he is going to die of boredom, and so, true to our academic previous form, let’s make a scientific, falsifiable prediction: he's going to return to writing---its falsifiable only if put into a finite time frame, the prediction, so let's make that two years. Roth is back at writing in two years time.

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