Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Tribute to the Late Philip Roth

I awoke to the news that Philip Roth has died at the age of 85. It is unfortunate, though hardly surprising, that this great writer will now be reduced to his most notorious (and, IMHO, far from his best) work. (Well, he did come up with that scene in which he disrespects a slab of raw liver--so I suppose he has only himself to blame for such a complaint.)

Earlier this year, he was interviewed by the New York Times. I especially like this bit wherein he sums up the bathos of the writer's life:
C.M. Looking back, how do you recall your 50-plus years as a writer?

Exhilaration and groaning. Frustration and freedom. Inspiration and uncertainty. Abundance and emptiness. Blazing forth and muddling through. The day-by-day repertoire of oscillating dualities that any talent withstands — and tremendous solitude, too. And the silence: 50 years in a room silent as the bottom of a pool, eking out, when all went well, my minimum daily allowance of usable prose.
Personally, I have never read Roth for his sex scenes (which are too phallocentric for me, and which I have tended to skim or skip over). I read, past tense--and read, present tense--Roth for his way with words and for his electrifying flights of prose, of which the above represents the merest taste.

Fortunately, he has left us plenty of heady writing, a lasting legacy which should have been acknowledged with a Nobel literature prize. And when you consider some of the lesser lights who have won it (Harold Pinter? Bob Dylan?), it seems clear that Roth was well and truly robbed.

Update: Don't miss Tablet's "Remembering Philip Roth."

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