But let me not exaggerate the pathos and originality of my impressions, especially as they were subsumed soon enough in my unoriginal and irrepressible preoccupation: mostly I thought of the triumph it would be to kiss that face, and the excitement of her kissing me back.
Philip Roth’s The Ghost Writer (perhaps the best short novel of the last century)


Dear Nick: 
Can you please explain how the Amazon ranking system works?

David Carle 
Estacada, OR

Dear David: 

Say you have published a book. Well, if you look it up on Amazon, the ranking system will tell you how good it is, compared with all the other books that have ever been published. Glenn Beck’s The 7: Seven Wonders That Will Change Your Life, for example, is, at the time of writing, the fifth greatest book ever written; Philip Roth’s American Pastoral, by contrast, ranks at 15,441. (Mr. Roth should think about that, and learn from his mistakes, but that’s not our concern here.) I say “at the time of writing” because people are writing great books every second of every day, so there is a chance that Glenn Beck will have slipped a bit by the time you read this. And a chance that Philip Roth will have climbed in the rankings. I doubt it, though.

I don’t know you, David Carle, and I’m not going to do any research. But if you have written a book, I’m guessing that it’s not as good as The 7, but it is better than American Pastoral. This is true of a lot of books, more than fifteen thousand of them.



Esquire's Stephen Marche referred to this case as “[Philip Roth's] The Human Stain as non-fiction.”  This story is such a waste.  Some lowlights:

Grunfeld said Tuesday she may have misunderstood the context and intent of Johnston’s remarks, but that fact is insignificant.

“The words, ‘Jews should be sterilized’ still came out of his mouth, so regardless of the context I still think that’s pretty serious.”

And, immediately after…

Grunfeld also expressed skepticism that Johnston was in fact Jewish.

Asked directly by a reporter whether she believes Johnston is lying, she was unclear.

If you’re reading this, Ms. Grunfield, click here.

The militant introduces a faith, a big belief that will change the world, and the artist introduces a product that has no place in the world. It’s useless. The artist, the serious writer, introduces into the world something that wasn’t there even at the start. When God made all this stuff in seven days, the birds, the rivers, the human beings, he didn’t have ten minutes for literature. ‘And then there will be literature. Some people will like it, some people will be obsessed by it, want to do it…’ No. No. He did not say that. If you asked God then, ‘There will be plumbers?’ ‘Yes there will be. Because they will have houses, they will need plumbers.’ ‘There will be doctors?’ ‘Yes. Because they will get sick, they will need doctors to give them some pills.’ ‘And literature?’ ‘Literature? What are you talking about? What use does it have? Where does it fit in? Please, I am creating a universe, not a university. No literature.’
I Married a Communist, by Philip Roth. Holy smokes.