Thursday, July 5, 2012

Everything he blanked was here

Philip Roth, famously, at the close of Sabbath's Theater:
And he couldn' t do it. He could not fucking die. How could he leave? How could he go? Everything he hated was here.

I just found out that he'd used almost the same construction in American Pastoral (his next novel):
The longing he would feel if he had to live in another country. Yes, everything that gave meaning to his accomplishments had been American. Everything he loved was here.
It is a truism nowadays to say that Am. Past. is worse on every dimension than Sabbath, but I was amused to see how this is explicitly so even at the level of the sentence. (Am. Past. was the first Roth I read, I think I was altogether too tolerant of it at the time because of some good long sentences -- this one, perhaps? -- in the homecoming scene early in the novel.)


Elisa said...

Oh geez. I read those years apart so I didn't notice. Sabbath's Theater was my first Roth and everything after disappointed.

Lee said...

Did you ever consider that the parallel construction was entirely deliberate?

Zed said...

Yes I considered this; it doesn't seem too unlikely to me, and it wouldn't affect my view of the relative merits of the two passages.