Again, the Plumber

At least twice in the last few months this blog has invoked the metaphor of writer as plumber. “Why We Write,” asked, “After all, do wannabe plumbers lose sleep about wanting to plumb? Do they represent themselves as plumbers when they haven’t actually been paid for their work? Do they plumb for free?” And “Out of Excuses” included JA Konrath’s query, “Do plumbers need to get inspired?”

This morning in The New York Times, in a piece by Charles McGrath about Philip Roth’s new book Everyman (Philip Roth, Haunted by Illness, Feels Fine“), Roth himself reaches into his tool bag and pulls out the handy metaphor when explaining his newfound affection for the short novel (less than 200 pages):

“The thing about this length that I’ve particularly come to like is that you can get the impact of a novel, which arises from its complexity and the thoroughness of detail, but you can also get the impact you get from a short story, because a good reader can keep the whole thing in mind. Motifs can be repeated, and they will be remembered.”

He paused and added: “You know, I used to talk this way about the pleasure of writing long novels. If I go into the plumbing business next week, I suppose I’ll be talking this way about toilets.”

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