Philip Roth's Focus

Right now I'm listening to Tina Brown interview Philip Roth (at the Open Culture website) and Roth just made an interesting comment that I've heard very similar variations of from a number of novelists: "I write my way into knowledge of the story." I find that to be a fascinating notion. He starts with a line, that's it. He's not recording a preexisting story; the story develops as it is created. It seems that life is like that. What knowledge do I have of my story? Is it mine? Sometimes the finiteness of the narrative proves unsettling, but a part of my brain tells me it really shouldn't: an infinite narrative would be terrifying. But what I really want is to be properly focused on the right now. Properly? What does that mean? I feel that I have, sometimes, an intuitive sense of what it means to be properly focused, but at this present moment articulateness is escaping me. (And I fear that sometimes the nature of our present age, so given to divide our attention, has sucked me in in ways that I do not like at all. Certain kinds of reading and work are the best antidote.

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