Bernard Malamud: A Writer’s Life

Deborah Friedell writes:

In Philip Roth’s novel The Ghost Writer, 23-year-old Nathan Zuckerman, ‘already contemplating my own massive Bildungsroman’, makes a jaunty pilgrimage to the clapboard farmhouse of Emanuel Lonoff, the great Jewish-American writer whose work Zuckerman admires but aims to surpass. Although Lonoff writes about Jews, he has secluded himself in the goyish New England countryside in the hope of being left alone: ‘I turn sentences around. That’s my life. I write a sentence and then I turn it around. Then I look at it and I turn it around again.’ At his desk each morning by 8.30, Lonoff pauses only for lunch and to teach creative writing at the local college, then writes until dinner, always prepared by his lonely shiksa wife, then reads until he’s exhausted. On Sundays he usually agrees to spend part of the day walking with his wife through the woods, but before they’ve walked long he invariably becomes anxious and insists on going back to work.

(LRB 15 November 2007)

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