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.
Through Mr. Roth's words, the complex human soul -- yours, mine -- has been scrutinized. Through the vivid, ironic, sharp words of a genius who told us once: words, being words, only approximate the real thing.
So, Philip Roth is calling it quits after almost 60 years of writing. I don't want to suggest that Roth was being disingenuous about his retirement, but I do think that there is more going on than a mere statement of fact. After all, what writer announces his departure?
Roth calmly announced his retirement from fiction and the news reverberated all over the world. We were surprised. We didn't know what to think. We still believed that our favorite novelist would never stop writing novels. How can a writer stop writing?
For me as for several others across the globe, now and for ages to come, Philip Roth will ever remain a transgressive Columbus who ventured to navigate the choppy waters of selfhood
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