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Please Mr. Roth, Can I Borrow a Cup Of Novel? How My Little Publishing Company Talked America's Greatest Novelist Out Of Early Retirement

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Another golden opportunity presented itself last week when it was announced that Phillip Roth had written his last book. (Not so fast, Phil.) I found out where he lived and made my way through the woods to his rustic home in Connecticut. (Location withheld upon request of the author.)

I knocked on the door. No answer. I knocked again. Finally a crackly voice said:
"Go away!"

A less determined person would have walked away. But My Little Publishing Company (Mylittlepubco.com) does not take "go away" for an answer. I kept knocking.

Finally, the door opened and there stood the National Book Award-winning writer himself. He wore a faded plaid bathrobe over long wooly underwear.

LU: Sorry to bother you, Mr. Roth but I've got something important to discuss.

PR: Get off my property or I'll shoot you.

LU: Ha ha. I bet you don't even own a gun.

He pulled a large rifle from behind him and aimed it at my kneecaps.

LU: If you shoot me in the legs I won't be able to leave. You'll have to lift me in your arms, carry me into your writer's den and tenderly nurse me for months. Like you did Joyce Maynard.

PR: What do you want?

LU: I want you do to write a novel for My Little Publishing Company.

PR: I'm done with writing. Don't you read the papers, you crazy f****** loon. (I took this last as form of endearment and plunged ahead.)

LU: I think you've got many more books in you, Mr. Roth. But not the kind of books you're used to writing. This is a chance for you to spread your wings, push the envelope, put your literary potential to the test.

I heard him click something on the gun. Was that the famous bullet-in-the-chamber sound? I was both surprised and excited by his Jewish machismo. This was a Phillip Roth that very few people get to see.

PR: In case you're wondering, I'm not afraid to shoot.

LU: Of course you're not. There's very little that you're afraid of. But let me ask you this: do you dare to put pen to a paranormal?

PR: What are you talking about?

LU: I want you to write a ghost story. I have the concept all worked out. It's a glatt kosher ghost story. It takes place in a ritual slaughter house where the spirits of badly slaughtered cattle come back to haunt the butcher. It's the perfect vehicle for you. And after you've finished that I've got a whole slew of different genres for you to try your hand at. A pornographic novel: 50 Tastes of Treif. A mixed marriage romance novel: How Shelia Lost Her Sheitel. A young adult series: Herschel Potterputz.

PR: You're talking schlock.

LU: That's right! The time has come for you throw your literary concerns aside and have fun. Write crap! Live a little!

I knew I had him. He leaned his gun against the doorframe and scratched his stubbly face.

PR: What would I tell Houghton Mifflin?

LU: They never need to know. You won't use your real name. That's my big idea. Phillip Roth will become the ghost writer for My Little Publishing Company. We'll make millions.

PR: O.K. what do I have to do?

LU: Here's the outline for Dial R for Ritual Slaughter. Just write me a sample chapter and if it passes muster, we've got a deal.

PR: You can't be serious. I've never been asked to write a sample chapter in my life.

LU: Hey Phil, in case you haven't noticed, publishing has become a deadly serious business.