The Carriage Driver 4 Philip Roth

Updated on June 24, 2018

The Carriage Driver had prepared Nuelle and the carriage for a journey. Things had been very slow as the roving ambassador for heaven. They made their way down a tree lined avenue at a cozy pace. Griffin spotted an agitated man several yards ahead.

About that time the man looked up. “Oh, no. Look, ah, listen; I have seven doors in my mind. I know this door exists, but have spent my whole life, keeping away from it. No one knows what is behind that door. No one. Sure, there are many who claim to know. They claim to know the rules and take great pleasure in explaining those rules.”

He took a few steps ahead. Nuelle just kept the easy pace, not setting off any alarms.

“Now fear, that door, I know quite a bit about. As a writer, I have spent many hours there. There is more fear in the world than any other emotion. My generation fought off the fear of breaking the traditions of our parents. Many from the old country. They were set in their ways. They feared hunger and persecution. They feared that their children would walk away from the faith they carried like stones. Imagine carrying your faith as a burden.”

Nuelle took a step, bringing Griffin up alongside the brooding man.

“As a young man, I feared being able to find my place in the world. A new generation took to the streets to oppose the status quo. The sixties and early seventies were a time of both fear and frustration. Parents turned on their children. Children abandoned their parents' ways. I witnessed a generation that through strife and turmoil changed the course of a nation.”

He grabbed both sides of his head. “As a writer my head was bursting with ideas. Ideas about who I was, or am and ideas about the country. It got to a point that I named my alter ego, and put him on paper; I lived the life I wanted through him. And through him, I was able to make my way in the world, always seeking a higher persona of myself. I asked myself question after question about what life is, and then spent my writing career exploring those questions. I had to invent someone, to become myself.”

Nuelle stopped. She looked at the man talking to them, but mostly to himself. She looked at this man, who was as unsure at the end of his life, as he was at the beginning. There was an essence to him. A humanity, a sadness. She could sense the turbulence churning inside him.

“Writing is a solitary profession. Many hours are spent sifting down through your thoughts. We are observers of life. We dissect and inspect the many facets that present themselves. When the big questions are presented, we don’t have a quick answer. We discovered that there are no quick solutions. There is research to be done. We are always digging, looking for facts that support our positions. Mostly we fear that our energy and creativeness will extinguish. We fear that our fires will go out, that our voices will not be heard, or worse, that our voices will be ignored. We fear having nothing to say.”

His deep eyes looked directly at Griffin, seeing him, looking for recognition of any kind. “My work was studied. It was dissected like a bug. One published work unleashed a backlash. My work became a feeding frenzy for the literary critics. I took my responsibility seriously. With a hatchet in each hand, I hacked away at the vines from the ancients that pinned our minds to outdated thoughts.” He paused. “What was I talking about? Oh, fear.”

Griffin stepped down and walked to Nuelle. He took an apple from his pocket and cut it into four pieces. Nuelle and Griffin ate their apple as the man continued to talk.

“Sexual mores were open fodder for my writing. As time went by, you could see the sexual mores being broken down. America’s youth was freed from the advice or constraints of their elders. A revolution was afoot. What did that fellow say? ‘There’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear.’ No one ever said it better than that.”

Griffin and Nuelle quietly observed.

“Being a college professor, offered first hand observations of the changing values taking hold all across America. My fictional palate offered free rein to my characters. The lust and sexual explorations of the youth of the nation spread across the pages of my novels. Their heroes had changed. The guidelines set out by their parents and their grandparents were thrown out the window. Unlike the postwar generation who survived and carried their fear with them, the young fled from the past. My novels are a chronicle of this wayward generation.”

He paused and looked at Griffin and Nuelle. Yes, indeed he thought. I stayed away from this door. This door is too frightening. This door labeled religion is too dark and foreboding. How can anything be behind that door? All the stepping stones along this pathway are stained with the superstitions of mankind, translated and set forth as the word from beyond. Language pontificated again and again to anyone who would listen. Finally, he said, “There is a conflict of ideas. Man searches for meaning in his life. We travel alone through a desert of ideas. Our feet try to grip the shifting sands beneath them. Our footing is unsure. We squint our eyes to the blinding sun. We labor to quench our thirst in a wasteland of our own making.” His voice lowered, “Is any of this making any sense?” Words spoken to himself. “I spent a lifetime mingling with literary intellectuals, at cocktail parties with academic wannabes, and dedicated myself to isolation where I practiced my art. I searched for literary heroes among my contemporaries. Most of all I had my say.”

Griffin looked at the man and said, “Your name is in the book. We are here to take you anywhere you want to go. But why do I have the feeling you are not going to climb aboard?”

Nuelle turned her head and looked back at the man standing there.

“That is a nice invitation. Perhaps the nicest invitation that I ever had. You are right. At this point I would be a hypocrite if I climbed into that carriage. I have seven doors in my mind. I thoroughly explored only one. The door you offer scares me. It is the door of my father’s world. I cannot claim it for my own.” He paused, “So, you are The Carriage Driver.” He smiled and walked away.

Griffin climbed aboard. He pushed his hat back on his head as Nuelle pulled the carriage back into the lane. She followed the man for half a mile hoping he could overcome his fear and change his mind.

Philip Roth

March 19, 1933 – May 22, 2018

Philip Roth, author of thirty books, many short stories and winner of stacks of literary awards, passed at age eighty-five. He resided at the center of American literature for decades. His work drew thunderous criticism. He was noted for sharp intelligence and biting humor. His writing is unconventional and probing, daring and prodding. His work entertained, enlightened and engaged his readers. He loved too much, and could not love enough. Through it all he wrote. He was a storyteller.

Philip Roth was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1998 for his American Pastoral, (Houghton Mifflin) taking his place beside his friend Saul Bellows and his contemporary John Updike.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 mckbirdbks


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      • mckbirdbks profile imageAUTHOR


        13 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

        Hello Shauna – All of us here in this Hubpage circle somehow missed Philip Roth. Luckily the population at large seemed to have found him and loved his writing. We all have seen some of his work that was brought to the screen.

        Intellectuals often convince themselves that they are atheist. But the question has always haunted them and they fear the existence of a deity.

        I know a bit about fear. So I tried to relate it here.

      • mckbirdbks profile imageAUTHOR


        13 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

        Hello Ruby – Philip Roth mist have been an acquired taste. No one that has come by to read this acquired a taste for his work. I am not sure who his audience was, but not youthful, so-to-be-hubpage-authors.

        I don’t have a good suggestion about your travel issue. Perhaps a larger vehicle that sits higher would make you feel more comfortable on the highway. King and Queen of the world.

        Thank you for taking a few minutes to spend with my story. I am having trouble finding time or motivation to write these days.

      • bravewarrior profile image

        Shauna L Bowling 

        14 months ago from Central Florida

        Mike, I've never even heard of Philip Roth. I guess his subject matter or titles never piqued my interest. However, this is one of your best. You speak of the many fears writers face, not just Philip Roth. This piece really flows and is very relate-able. Not knowing Roth was an atheist, I didn't quite connect the dots that behind door one was religion, his biggest fear.

        Excellent story, Mike and beautifully presented!

      • always exploring profile image

        Ruby Jean Richert 

        14 months ago from Southern Illinois

        Mike, I must admit that I know nothing about Philip Roth, but I can connect with his thinking. I live with fear daily. The world has become a scary place. I remember a quote from Franklin D Roosevelt, ( Nothing to fear but fear itself. ) Ray is wanting to go to Canada in July for his stepmother's birthday, I don't know if I will go. He said that we could drive or fly, neither sounds good to me. I've thought about seeing a therapist to see why I am so afraid of traveling. We have traveled a lot since we got married, but I am uneasy on the interstate. Well enough about me. I loved reading your story. The video was daunting. All we can do about believing there's life after death is have faith that God formed the world and everything in it, and we will rise on resurrection Day and go to heaven if we believed that he allowed his son, Jesus' to be crucified on the cross for our sins. WHOA, heavy. Loving one another is the key....John 3: 16 I see I need to catch-up on some of your latest Carriage- Driver episodes...Cheers

      • mckbirdbks profile imageAUTHOR


        14 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

        Hello Peg - What is somewhat amusing is, that this man's work was on publisher's lists for years, actually decades. And none of us here read many of his works. I think I saw that he wrote 31 books, which is a lot of writing. He had an odd kind of notoriety. I do hope our questions get answered.

      • PegCole17 profile image

        Peg Cole 

        14 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

        When I think of people like this man I'm comforted by the thought that by now he knows the destiny that awaits each of us. Hopefully, he has the answers to all of his questions.

        You've done a great job in capturing his plight, his angst and uncertainty and, like the others, will need to read some of his work. The only one I'm vaguely familiar with is Portnoy's Complaint which I read many years ago. Going back to listen to the music now.

      • mckbirdbks profile imageAUTHOR


        14 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

        Hi Bill - It is an odd thought. Philip Roth reported, through fiction on his times and the morals that were changing. So, I am not sure today his work is still as pertinent. He mastered the art of writing, that is for sure.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        14 months ago from Olympia, WA

        I read quite a bit of his work in college; probably didn't fully appreciate him like I should have. Thanks for resurrecting my interest in him.

      • mckbirdbks profile imageAUTHOR


        14 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

        Hello Genna – Philip Roth was a lifelong atheist who once stated the world will be better off when there is no religion. Based on that and his rebellious life, I could not see him giving in to his beliefs of 85 years and climbing aboard. I think each of us struggles with the question or questions about what comes next. Heck, this whole series has been about those very questions. I think I have also only read one Philip Roth book. We need to figure out who his customers are and write for them. That is if we ever want to live on a farm in CT. haha Oh, and thanks for the ‘brilliant’ I must have channeled Philip Roth.

      • mckbirdbks profile imageAUTHOR


        14 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

        Hello Shy – I stayed away from the intellectuals as I pursued my reading. I always do terrible with those lists of the 100 books you have to read. And all those lists are different. Philip Roth grew a following over many years. Then bought a farm in CT and lived a comfortable life.

        Thanks for the blessings. Needed more than ever.

      • mckbirdbks profile imageAUTHOR


        14 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

        Hello John – You are right. I am sure many fear the door religion offers. Down right scary. He is known to me by his Goodbye Columbus. My reading took me elsewhere. I am glad you liked it. Fear is an every man story. I could have been writing about myself.

      • mckbirdbks profile imageAUTHOR


        14 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

        Hello mar – I did not read much Philip Roth. I knew his work. We are all familiar with his stories, as many were adapted to movies. His early work apparently did sell well. Then he had success with Portney’s Complaint. I wrote this Saturday afternoon, but I had thought about it for a couple of weeks.

      • profile image

        Genna East 

        14 months ago

        What an interesting chapter and twist for the Carriage Driver, who actually declined the journey. I've only read one book by Roth -- The Human Stain, inspired by what happened to his professor friend at Princeton. He had quite a unique, rebel voice -- incomparable -- that you have captured well. Yet if anyone would actually have second thoughts about climbing aboard that carriage, it would be Phillip Roth. Heavenly justice or recompense just wasn't his thing. "What dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil...must give us pause." This is brilliant, Mike.

      • Shyron E Shenko profile image

        Shyron E Shenko 

        14 months ago from Texas

        Mike, is seems that we all have catching up to do, need to read more about Phillip Roth, but still enjoyed the story.

        Blessings my dear friend.

      • Jodah profile image

        John Hansen 

        14 months ago from Queensland Australia

        This was touching, Mike. A lot of people fear that particular door I think. I knew of Philip Roth but very little about him. It seems I also have some catching up to do. I enjoyed this.

      • marcoujor profile image

        Maria Jordan 

        14 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

        Like Verlie, I have some catching up to do in reading the work of Philip Roth.

        I like that he marched to his own drummer.

        Thanks for this installment - a treat to discover this evening, dear Mike.

      • mckbirdbks profile imageAUTHOR


        14 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

        Hi Verile - I went looking for music and found this Zach Williams piece. I listened to a couple of more compositions and liked them also.

      • snakeslane profile image

        Verlie Burroughs 

        14 months ago from Canada

        Yes, your music selection perfectly conveys the limits that fear instills, not heard it before.

      • mckbirdbks profile imageAUTHOR


        14 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

        Hello Verlie - The Carriage Driver 4 seems to cater to celebrities. Philip Roth was certainly a celebrity in the world of letters. Many of his books were adapted to movies. I did not follow his career as it was happening. I did a little research as I put this together today. Fear did seem to play into his life, as it does with the rest of us. Some of us miss our calling, Philip Roth only missed a carriage ride. Thanks for the visit this afternoon.

      • snakeslane profile image

        Verlie Burroughs 

        14 months ago from Canada

        Wow Mike! Is this a first? Bless you for commemorating the life of Philip Roth. His passing is news to me. I wonder now about his other doors, and where he would go? Intriguing. I have some catching up to do! Beautiful story. I'm not sure how I feel about him missing the ride with the Carriage Driver, got me thinking. Thank you.


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