Saturday, October 13, 2007


In Philip Roth's The Anatomy Lesson, Nathan Zuckerman has been suffering from mysterious physical ailments--debilitating pain--and has not written anything since his controversial Carnovsky four years prior brought him fame and fortune--and scorn. He is blocked, unable to continue, ready to give it up:
However bad it was, always he'd pushed sanely on until a new alliance came along to help restore the old proportions. Only during the last half year had gloomy, frightening bouts of confusion seriously begun to erode the talent for steady living, and that wasn't from the pain alone: it was also from living without nursing a book that nursed him. In his former life he could never have imagined lasting a week without writing, he used to wonder how all the billions who didn't write could take the daily blizzard—all that beset them, such a saturation of the brain, and so little of it known or named. If he wasn't cultivating hypothetical Zuckermans he really had no more means than a fire hydrant to decipher his existence. But either there was no existence left to decipher or he was without sufficient imaginative power to convert into his fiction of seeming self-exposure what existence had now become. There was no rhetorical overlay left: he was bound and gagged by the real raw thing, ground down to his own unhypothetical nub. He could no longer pretend to be anyone else, and as a medium for his books he had ceased to be.

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