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'As good a living as a New York dermatologist'

12 May 2003

'The problem for most seriously ambitious writers is how do you drive the wedge of consciousness into the experience. How? Think of the ways people have done it - think of Henry James, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway. They make colossally different approaches to the same problem. And so the problem exists for me as well. It's the problem of a novel-writer - it's what fiction seems to me to be all about. Fiction is not called fiction because it invents events, but because it invents consciousness...

'To start with nothing at all on a page and then have to fill that page prompts a lot of anxieties and a lot of fear. Fear that you simply cannot do it, and frustration as you're doing it, because what comes is very crude.

But over the years, what you develop is a tolerance for your own crudeness. And patience with your own crap, really. Belief in your crap, which is just "stay with your crap and it will get better, and come back every day and keep going." It's a living. It has turned out that I now make about as good a living as a New York dermatologist - though he's been making it for longer than I have.'

Philip Roth, in interview with David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker, in the Sunday Telegraph