Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, contests and more!
Start Your Free Trial

This is the 1st of your 3 free articles

Become a member for unlimited website access and more.

FREE TRIAL Available!

Learn More

Already a member? Sign in to continue reading

10 of our favorite writing quotes from Philip Roth

"A writer has to be driven crazy to help him to see."

Add to Favorites

Legendary author Philip Roth passed away at the age of 85 yesterday. To honor his tremendous career, we collected 10 of Roth’s best quotes about writing and literature.

10 of Philip Roth’s quotes about writing


The struggles of writing

“Writing is frustration – it’s daily frustration, not to mention humiliation. It’s just like baseball: you fail two-thirds of the time.” (The New York Times.)


Writing process

“I work all day, morning and afternoon, just about every day. If I sit there like that for two or three years, at the end I have a book.” (The Paris Review.)


Fiction writing

“Novel-writing is, for the novelist, a game of let’s pretend.” (The New Yorker)



Beginning a new book

“I rarely, if ever, had another book in mind while I was writing the previous book. Each book starts from ashes, really.” (The Daily Beast)


Penning many books

“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.” (“Philip Roth: Unmasked”)


Neverending subject material

“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 [books]. I just want to keep writing now and end when it ends.” (Slate)



What a writer needs

“A writer has to be driven crazy to help him to see. A writer needs his poisons. The antidote to his poisons is often a book.” (The Paris Review)


Writing what you know

“Of course, you bank on your experience, but as a sounding board. It isn’t that you write down what happens to you every day. You wouldn’t be a writer if you did that. But it gives you a sense – you know from your experience what life is like. And you weigh what you invent against your sense of actuality.” (NPR)



On language

“The novelist’s obsession, moment by moment, is with language: finding the right next word.” (Stanford University)


On literature

“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.” (The Paris Review)




Is there an excellent Roth quote that we missed? Share it with fellow fans in the comments.

Originally Published