You fight your superficiality, your shallowness, so as to try to come at people without unreal expectations, without an overload of bias or hope or arrogance, as untanklike as you can be, sans cannon and machine guns and steel plating half a foot thick; you come at them unmenacingly on your own ten toes instead of tearing up the turf with your caterpillar treads, take them on with an open mind, as equals, man to man, as we used to say, and yet you never fail to get them wrong.
You might as well have the brain of a tank.
You get them wrong before you meet them, while you’re anticipating meeting them; you get them wrong while you’re with them; and then you go home to tell somebody else about the meeting and you get them all wrong again.
Since the same generally goes for them with you, the whole thing is really a dazzling illusion.
The fact remains that getting people right is not what living is all about anyway.
It’s getting them wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then, on careful reconsideration, getting them wrong again.
That’s how we know we’re alive: we’re wrong.
Maybe the best thing would be to forget being right or wrong about people and just go along for the ride.
But if you can do that – well, lucky you.
Philip Roth (March 19, 1933 – May 22, 2018) was an American novelist and short-story writer.
Roth‘s fiction, regularly set in his birthplace of Newark, New Jersey, is known for its intensely autobiographical character, for philosophically and formally blurring the distinction between reality and fiction, for its „sensual, ingenious style“ and for its provocative explorations of American identity.
American Pastoral is published in 1997. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 1998 and was included in TIME’s List of the 100 Best Novels.
The film rights to it were later optioned, though a film version was not made until 2016.
In 2006, it was one of the runners-up to Toni Morrison‘s Beloved, in the „What is the Best Work of American Fiction of the Last 25 Years?“ contest held by the New York Times Book Review.