Monday, February 15, 2010

Philip Roth (Part 4)

So there I was sitting in this cold, lonely jail somewhere on the Upper West Side and wondering how I would ever get any sleep when I heard loud, angry, disruptive voices coming my way. It turned out I had three visitors: Karen, the Sergeant on duty, and Philip Roth. They had all come to liberate me from my waking nightmare.

"Oh, dear love," Karen began, "I got here as soon as I could, but then Philip" (My quick thought: Philip?) "insisted on coming with me when he had heard what had happened and how badly things had gotten out of hand."

I looked over at Mr. Roth, who still wore that dour look, said nothing, but did nod encouragingly. The sergeant unlocked the cell and apologized quietly under his breath. Before I knew it we were standing in the cold night air and I could tell for the first time in hours that things were pretty much back to normal.

"But how did Mr. Roth find out about this?" I inquired. "I ran back into the theater," Karen explained, "and it was intermission and I saw him and told him the whole story. He was very sorry. During the cab ride on the way over here, we became fast friends."

Roth speaks: "She is quite a girl, your Karen."

"Yes, I know," I answered warily, "but what about all that has happened between us?"

"Well, right, of course, it was all a terrible misunderstanding," Roth says, all the while looking at Karen as if seeking her permission to add something special. "Can you ever forgive me? In a way, it's really quite amusing, you know. I was thinking I might even insert this whole incident into the novel I'm working on. What do you think of that? Karen thought it was a wonderful idea."

"Isn't that thrilling, darling, that Philip would want to put you in his novel?" Karen asked enthusiastically. I couldn't think, so I just nodded. I had to admit I liked the idea of being a character in Roth's novel, and really, all in all, very little harm had been done.

"So, what do you say?" Roth asked. "Shall we part as friends? I'll go home and turn a few sentences around and see if I can't figure out a way to put all this into my book." Roth smiled at this point for the first time in my presence, though something told me he hadn't stopped smiling during the whole cab ride with Karen. Still I couldn't resist returning his smile.

"Sure, it's all behind us and we're all friends now," I said magnanimously. "So what's the novel about?" I asked with genuine curiosity.

"Not sure yet," Roth answered tersely as he slipped into a cab he had just flagged, "but it will have something to do with how absurd life is in contemporary New York City. Really, you'll fit right in."

As his cab sped away, we kept our eyes on the back window to wait for some acknowledgement from Mr. Roth, a wave or a smile or something. There wasn't any. But that was okay. We'd see him again soon, the next time we all showed up for another chamber music concert at the Starr Theater in Alice Tully Hall.


  1. Whew! I'm glad that's over. Or ... is it?

  2. Exactly. It's a little uncertain, isn't it? And, you know, Roth will continue to go to those concerts and so will we...