Monday, April 1, 2013

Mesmerized by the PBS' 'American Masters' on Philip Roth.

Now I get why Roth was such a master.

My favorite bit: seeing his corrections. Looks just like mine! What a relief!!


The episode was engaging from the start, because he was so amazingly, refreshingly candid: the good, the bad, the whatever--no bullshit, and amazing self-awareness (and insight into others).

Of all the takeaways of that show, it's that he was a great writer, because he was totally liberated from fears, reticence, anything that comes between him and the page: what he felt, what his imagination was capable of, he spilled it out, let the page soak it up.

PLUS, he's really
smart, insightful--but again, honest person. I think so much of insight comes from inner honestly, clarity: insistence on seeing the world around us (and in us) as it really is, instead of pretending, trying to shape it into what we would like it to be, or want to believe it is. Honestly. "Oh, this is interesting. Not what I would have chosen, but hmmmmmm, interesting that it/I/you is/am/are that way."

Also, SO many little practical things I gleaned about his writing process that are so similar to mine. It was encouraging and instructive. (Including that markup. Just like mine! Nice to see we're on the same page.)

And that also came through: His diligence to make his stuff better, and a lot of awareness about what worked for him and what got in his way. (Like writing outside the city, writing standing up (wow! I might have to try that. Because I have found some of my best work while walking around.) I loved his realization that great writing doesn't JUST HAPPEN. He has to find all the ways to coax it out and stay out of the way. Like the way he develops his characters. He had to learn from himself what worked for him to create them and keep approaching it that way.

I think the show can be great for any kind of artist. I know I learn about my process from watching artists in other fields. It's what I love about Project Runway, for instance. You really get to see some of their process: in miniature--start to finish, you see a project, and where each of them sometimes gets on the right track and rides it to somewhere wonderful, and then a week later (a day later in their real life taping the show), they go right off the rails and the dress goes down the toilet with them.

(Ack! Horrible mixed metaphor. haha. It's OK. I allow them in first drafts. I successfully turned my internal editor off! Haha. Yea!!!)

BTW, great summary of the episode on PopMatters. Their post is called, "A Remarkable Portrait of a Reclusive American Treasure: 'American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked.' "



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