18+ quotes from Operation Shylock: A Confession by Philip Roth

Quotes from Operation Shylock: A Confession

Philip Roth ·  400 pages

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“Better for real things to be uncontrollable, better for one's life to be undecipherable and intellectually impenetrable than to attempt to make casual sense of what is unknown with a fantasy that is mad. Better, I thought, that the events of these past three days should remain incomprehensible to me forever than to posit, as I had just been doing, a conspiracy of foreign intelligence agents who are determined to control my mind. We've all heard that one before.”
― Philip Roth, quote from Operation Shylock: A Confession


“Everything dictated silence and self-control but I couldn't restrain myself and spoke my mind.”
― Philip Roth, quote from Operation Shylock: A Confession


“Where everything is words, you'd think I'd have some mastery and know my way around, but all this churning hatred, each man a verbal firing squad, immeasurable suspicions, a flood of mocking, angry talk, all of life a vicious debate, conversations in which there is nothing that cannot be said...no, I'd be better off in the jungle, I thought, where a roar's a roar and no one is hard put to miss its meaning.”
― Philip Roth, quote from Operation Shylock: A Confession


“...they'll say, 'He never recovered from that breakdown and this was the result. It had to be the breakdown--not even he was that dreadful a novelist.”
― Philip Roth, quote from Operation Shylock: A Confession


“...Don't tell me he's bisexual! Don't tell me this is more of the guy in the hallway! Don't tell me he wants us to have it off together, Philip Roth fucking Philip Roth! That, I'm afraid, is a form of masturbation too fancy even for me.”
― Philip Roth, quote from Operation Shylock: A Confession


“But I never did escape from this plot-driven world into a more congenial, subtly probable, innerly propelled narrative of my own devising--didn't make it to the airport,...--and that was because in the taxi I remembered a political cartoon I'd seen in the British papers when I was living in London during the Lebanon war, a detestable cartoon of a big-nosed Jew, his hands meekly opened out in front of him and his shoulders raised in a shrug as though to disavow responsibility, standing atop a pyramid of dead Arab bodies. Purportedly a caricature of Menachem Begin, then prime minister of Israel, the drawing was, in fact, a perfectly realistic, unequivocal depiction of a kike as classically represented in the Nazi press. The cartoon was what turned me around. Barely ten minutes out of Jerusalem, I told the driver to take me back to the King David Hotel.”
― Philip Roth, quote from Operation Shylock: A Confession


“This is the plot up to the moment when the writer leaves the woman still dolefully enmeshed in it, and, suitcase in hand, tiptoeing so as not to disturb her postcoital rest, he himself slips silently out of the plot on the grounds of its general implausibility, a total lack of gravity, reliance at too many key points on unlikely coincidence, an absence of inner coherence, and not even the most tenuous evidence of anything resembling a serious meaning or purpose. The story so far is frivolously plotted, overplotted, for his taste altogether too freakishly plotted, with outlandish events so wildly careening around every corner that there is nowhere for intelligence to establish a foothold and develop a perspective. As if the look-alike at the story's storm center isn't farfetched enough, there is the capricious loss of the Smilesburger check (there is the fortuitous appearance of the Smilesburger check; there is Louis B. Smilesburger himself, Borscht Belt deus ex machina), which sets the action on its unconvincing course and serves to reinforce the writer's sense that the story has been intentionally conceived as a prank, and a nasty prank at that, considering the struggles of Jewish existence that are said to be at issue by his antagonist.”
― Philip Roth, quote from Operation Shylock: A Confession


“It was not for me, after these last seventy-two hours, to reject as too outlandish the possibility that the situation for him here had driven George crazy. Yet I did reject it. It was just too insipid a conclusion. Not everybody was cray. Resolute is not crazy. Deluded is not crazy. To be thwarted, vengeful, terrified, treacherous--this is not to be crazy. Not even fanatically held illusions are crazy, and deceit certainly isn't crazy--deceit, deviousness, cunning, cynicism, all of that is far from crazy...and there, that, deceit, there was the key to my confusion. Of course!”
― Philip Roth, quote from Operation Shylock: A Confession


“...I finally went back to my seat in the second row and sat there doing what I've done throughout my professional life: I tried to think, first, how to make credible a somewhat extreme, if not outright ridiculous story, and, next, how, after telling it, to fortify and defend myself from the affronted who read into the story an intention having perhaps to do less with the author's perversity than with their own.”
― Philip Roth, quote from Operation Shylock: A Confession


“Would that I were still a ludicrous character in his lousy book!”
― Philip Roth, quote from Operation Shylock: A Confession


“Look, I've got more personalities than I can use already. All you are is one too many.”
― Philip Roth, quote from Operation Shylock: A Confession


“I suppose I should have laughed even more uproariously at what happened next; as a newly anointed convert to the Old Comedy, I should have bounded to my feet, cried aloud, "Hallelujah!" and sung the praises of He Who Created Us, He Who Formed Us from the Mud, the One and Only Comic Almighty, OUR SOVEREIGN REDEEMER ARISTOPHANES, but for reasons all too profane (total mental paralysis) I could only gape at the sight of nothing less than the highly entertaining Aristophanic erection that Pipik had produced....”
― Philip Roth, quote from Operation Shylock: A Confession


“I left the front stoop on Leslie Street, ate of the fruit of the tree of fiction, and nothing, neither reality nor myself, has been the same since.”
― Philip Roth, quote from Operation Shylock: A Confession


“Nothing could appear to be more human than refusing to believe extinction possible so long as you were encircled by luscious eggplants and ripe tomatoes[..]”
― Philip Roth, quote from Operation Shylock: A Confession


“I understood that people are trying to transform themselves all the time: the universal urge to be otherwise. So as not to look as they look, sound as they sound, be treated as they are treated, suffer in the ways they suffer, etc., etc., they change hairdos, tailors, spouses, accents, friends, they change their addresses, their noses, their wallpaper, even their forms of government, all to be more like themselves or less like themselves, or more like or less like that exemplary prototype whose image is theirs to emulate or to repudiate obsessively for life.”
― Philip Roth, quote from Operation Shylock: A Confession


“I’m looking at myself,” he said, ecstatically, “except it’s you.”
― Philip Roth, quote from Operation Shylock: A Confession


“don’t care why we have it, we are here to admit that we have it and help each other get rid of it.”
― Philip Roth, quote from Operation Shylock: A Confession


“Could he continue to maintain his sanity that long? He didn't know. That's why he was devouring two or three books a day - to remove himself every minute that he possibly could from the madness of this life.”
― Philip Roth, quote from Operation Shylock: A Confession


About the author

Philip Roth
Born place: in Newark, New Jersey, The United States
Born date March 19, 1933
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