Saul Bellow to Philip Roth: The Holy Trinity of Writing Motives

October 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

An interesting missive on why author’s write.  I give much thanks to my brother Dave for sending me the letter.  I’m going to go get the book of all of Bellow’s letters.


To Philip Roth:

January 7, 1984
Chicago

Dear Philip:

I thought to do something good by giving an interview to People, which was
exceedingly foolish of me.  I asked Aaron [Asher] to tell you that the Good
Intentions Paving Company had fucked up again.  The young interviewer turned my
opinions inside out, cut out the praises and made it all sound like disavowal,
denunciation and excommunication.  Well, we’re both used to this kind of thing,
and beyond shock.  In agreeing to take the call, and make a statement I was
simply muddle-headed.  But if I had been interviewed by an angel for
the Seraphim and Cherubim Weekly I’d have said, as I actually did say to the
crooked little slut, that you were one of our very best and most interesting
writers.  I would have added that I was greatly stimulated and entertained by
your last novel, and that of course after three decades I understood perfectly
well what you were saying about the writer’s trade – how could I not understand,
or miss suffering the same pains.  Still our diagrams are different, and the
briefest description of the differences would be that you seem to have accepted
the Freudian explanation: A writer is motivated by his desire for fame, money
and sexual opportunities.  Whereas I have never taken this trinity of motives
seriously.  But this is an explanatory note and I don’t intend to make a
rabbinic occasion of it.  Please accept my regrets and apologies, also my best
wishes.  I’m afraid there’s nothing we can do about the journalists; we can only
hope that they will die off as the deerflies do towards the end of August.

– Saul Bellow, Letters


So what are your trinity of motives for writing?

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