That's what writing a novel is like. No matter the precautions and preparation, dangers abound. The game is rigged; the odds of success and survival are not good. MFA vs. NYC? Yeah, sure, exactly. Whatever it takes, however you get there, and everything in between.
Roth's reading brought tears to anyone who has buried someone beloved. Yet what flowed from it was nowise morbid or even poetically elegiac. Nostalgic, yes, for the eighty years just past, but realistic about them too -- and above all historic.
For mystery, suspense and thriller novels, viewing the plot as "(almost) irrelevant" seems an extraordinary stretch. Frankly, I find that conclusion preposterous.
For Pierpont, Roth Unbound looks back to Roth's writing life. It "is fundamentally an examination of Roth's development as a writer, considering his themes, his thoughts, and his language. By necessity, it covers an enormous span."
No matter how beautifully written or "literary," a novel resonates deeply because the storyline tugs powerfully at us. It upsets, confounds and presents chaos, conflict, imbalance and upheaval -- either within its character's mind or circumstances.
Some of the Philip Roth's novels had more importance in my narrative -- and in my life -- than others. I'll try to list five of them. And I will not affirm that they are the best ones written by Mr. Roth, who wrote several masterpieces.
European and Middle Eastern countries are often bounded by hostile neighbors. The Battle of Britain was a turning point in the Second World War. Yet ...
A writer's life cut short -- Keats, Marlowe, the Brontës -- haunts literary history, and the writer's fear of dying prematurely, before fulfilling his potential, once made for some of the West's finest writing. How fittingly modern, then, that writers nowadays could, in effect, live too long.
This summer, without a Roth novel to confront for the very first time, I have returned repeatedly to his collaboration with Christopher Sykes: Web of Stories, a series of interviews in which Mr. Roth talks about his childhood, his influences, the ideas for his novels, and his life as a writer.
The documentary is not intended to "unmask" Philip Roth in the sense that you learn every possible thing about him. What the film unmasks is the solitary life of the writer, the life of one who has become, as Manera articulated, "a self-appointed slave to his writing."
To younger writers who are missing the boat, I want to say: Read Roth. Learn from his oeuvre and from his life, and from how the two have intersected. Learn how a writer can keep pace with America and tell its story as well as his own, again and again.
The film is more about Roth's work than his personal life, though Roth does describe his first marriage as being "lurid" and "derailing" him.
The title of this posting is a question that many readers are currently asking, and it's one that I and Jacques Berlinerblau recently discussed in our public interview, a salute to Philip Roth.
Philip Roth may be our greatest living writer. So why would he give himself over to filmmakers who would make a movie as dull, superficial and pedantic as Philip Roth: Unmasked?
Did I mention that he is a Hasidic Jew? Asher Lev makes Matisyahu look like beat-boxing was never meant for anything more racy than a bar mitzvah.
For all their hoopla and the effort that went into its development, Bookish is nothing more than a promotional vehicle for books produced by the three publishers funding the site, with an underpowered book recommendation gadget that's not ready for prime time.
by Katy Simpson Smith
Published on August 26th, 2014
by Stephan Eirik Clark
Published on August 19th, 2014
by Roxane Gay
Published on August 5th, 2014
by Amy Bloom
Published on July 29th, 2014