How to Tell a Story

I’ve started reading Philip Roth’s American Pastoral, and I’m drawn to these passages about the task of interpreting the past and telling a story.

And if there’s anything worse than self-questioning coming too early in life, it’s self-questioning coming too late. (68)

The impulse is that the telling is going to relieve you. And that’s why you feel awful later–you’ve relieved yourself, and if it is truly tragic and awful, it’s not better, it’s worse–the exhibitionism inherent to a confession has only made the misery worse. (82)

But who is set up for the impossible that is going to happen? Who is set up for tragedy and the incomprehensibility of suffering? Nobody. The tragedy of the man not set up for tragedy–that is every man’s tragedy. (86)



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