Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Philip Roth's latest, The Plot Against America, made its debut on best seller lists this week. This e-mail, found on a usenet group, provides an insight into the process to which even a great author like Mr. Roth must submit.
>Date: Mon Sept 15, 2003 9:52:35 AM US/Eastern
>To: Philip Roth
>Subject: Greetings and thanks
>Received your manuscript on March 8. It arrived
>safe and sound (ha-ha). Very interesting work, to
>be sure. I think you've made a very bold choice by
>taking a foray into the genre of alternate
>history fiction. It's usually been the province
>of science fiction authors and I'm sure
>you'll surprise and delight many of your fans
>with this one. Though this is just an early draft,
>I think we have the makings of another Pulitzer here,
>or at the very, very least, a Faulkner.
>That being said, however, here are a few notes,
>just some things I noticed on my first pass through
>that perhaps we could discuss when we meet next month:
>pg. 4-- Strong start, but having every character introduced
>say "Say, now, what if -this- had happened, hmmmm?"
>or some variation sort of telegraphs the idea of the whole venture.
>pg. 22-- Wondering if it might not be a bit much to have
>Hitler as the godfather of Lindbergh's son, then enacting
>the Holocaust out of anger over the child's kidnapping and
>murder? Perhaps something less obvious, here.
>pg. 50-- "And so, President Roosevelt shrank out of the
>eye, quietly retiring to the family tobacco farm in North Carolina
>to work the land." Another crop, maybe? Cotton? Sugar beets?
>pg .87-- Dinosaurs?
>pg. 106-- Odd tangent here. The modern-day southerners thrown
>into the Hundred Years' War? Yes, it's good for a bit of a
>laugh, but a whole chapter? Maybe this could be cut down
>into a dream sequence.
>pg. 138-- More dinosaurs?
>pg. 149-- I understand we're dealing with some rather speculative
>concepts here, but I doubt that, if things had gone differently,
>we would have seen a three-term presidency by "The actor who played
>'The Fonz' on that 'Happy Days' program." (I believe his name is
>Henry Winkler, by the way.)
>pg. 226-- The dinosaurs... alright, I understand, now. Great
>of pulling that together. Very rewarding.
>Again, great, wonderful
>ideas here, overall, but we'll talk the week of the sixth. Call
>Helen to schedule a time that works for you.
>Yours, in earnest,
>Carlson N. Holmes
>Editor, Houghton-Mifflin Co.
>222 Berkeley Street "
>Adult Editorial, 8th Floor
>Boston, MA 02116-3764