Philip Roth Died

And he’s not even all that old, just 85. So sad.

Picking up on our yesterday’s topic, Roth was the founder of the kind of immigrant lit that Junot Diaz is practicing. Roth would use Yiddish words every once in a while without providing a translation. But where Roth would do it once every hundred pages, the younger practitioners do it five times in a sentence.

Another difference is that Philip Roth started with immigrant lit but didn’t get hung up on it. He became a true American writer because he didn’t spend his whole life peddling identity.

If you’ve never read him, I recommend The Human Stain. I think it’s his absolute best. Don’t watch the movie, though. I love Anthony Hopkins but the movie sucks ass.

A great, great writer. RIP.

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25 thoughts on “Philip Roth Died”

    1. Watch the 1969 movie “Goodbye, Columbus” if it’s ever rerun on television. Actress Ali MacGraw looks 1960s sexy in the shower.

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          1. My point was that the story was so dull that the most interesting scene in the movie (I was 23 at the time) was a pretty scantily-clad girl. Sorry that went right over your simple hater’s mind! :-0

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  1. Immigration lit? More like assimilation lit. He was criticized by his fellow Jews for telling tales about them that showed them as flawed
    human beings as they grew up second or third generation in America.

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    1. That’s exactly what Junot Diaz writes about. Nasty, horrible Dominican immigrants and their children who are so much better and exalted in comparison.

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      1. But there’s an immense irony here: Roth’s most vociferous critics came from the Jewish establishment — they called him “anti-Semitic.” “What is being done to silence this man?” The question came not from the president, but rather from a “prominent New York rabbi” writing to the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation League — in 1959. He was complaining about a Roth story that had just appeared in The New Yorker, “Defender of the Faith,” about a manipulative Jewish draftee seeking favors from a Jewish sergeant.
        When Portnoy’s Complaint was published, the charges rose in a crescendo: the eminent Hebrew Scholar Gershom Scholem warned in Haaretz that Roth had written “the book for which all anti-Semites have been praying.” The Jewish magazine Commentary ran what Claudia Roth Pierpont calls “a series of furious articles,” including one by Marie Syrkin who said Portnoy’s shiksa fixation had come “straight out of the Goebbels-Streicher script.” Nixon’s idea was that the anti-Semites could be mobilized against Roth, but in fact many of the Semites already were.

        https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/nixon-asked-haldeman-philip-roth/

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      1. The other person I cannot stand, and confuse Roth with, is John Updike. I think that if I were not expected to identify closely with them and see them as representatives of me, I might be more tolerant. But they are supposed to express my deepest soul, I keep being told, and I find them slightly repugnant as people, so the idea that I am supposed to BE them makes me hate them outright. If I were not required to identify with them then I would be more tolerant.

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        1. What is it I hate so about them? They are these middle class, middle American, boring, patriarchal, self-involved, meaningless, empty people who have commercialized their nothingness and gotten it sold as high art to be rammed down our throats. They hate other people and are only worried about their mild individual neuroses. They have no creativity or insight, just endless and repetitive, self-involved boringness. They are exalted to limit our vision.

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          1. Who else is there, though, in American literature after the 1960s? Beyond Roth and Updike, I can’t even think of anybody. OK, Toni Morrison, she’s a genius. But who else? The DeLillo-Pynchon crowd? Sorry but just shoot me now. They are horrible. But who else?

            This is not a rhetorical question. If I’m missing some worthwhile authors, I want to know. I don’t mean the Frantzen kind of writer, obviously. I mean real literature.

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            1. I’ve never read Gore Vidal and perhaps should. I actually like DeLillo and Pyncheon, yes. Morrison is very good, I would say, even great. Genius, I don’t know. The other person I hate the way I hate Roth and Updike is Tolstoi. Pompous, callow, unsophisticated, thinks far too much of himself. (Yes, I know I am being unfair, but these are the reactions I have to these people.)

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              1. Possibly. I checked out of Portnoy’s Complaint early.

                If ” They are these middle class, middle American, boring, patriarchal, self-involved, meaningless, empty people who have commercialized their nothingness and gotten it sold as high art to be rammed down our throats. They hate other people and are only worried about their mild individual neuroses. They have no creativity or insight, just endless and repetitive, self-involved boringness. They are exalted to limit our vision” is the price of admission to literary genius or cutesy entertainment, forget it.

                They both bore me, are highly overrated, and far too many people say they like them to make themselves seem intelligent and to signal…something. You know how many people go on about Woody Allen being a genius?

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              2. I can’t force anybody to accept that I understand literature. 🙂 But I know that I do, and that’s enough for me.

                I recommend American Pastoral and The Human Stain over Portnoy’s Complaint. Much more mature, serious writing. American literature simply didn’t produce anything better than that since WWII. Except for Toni Morrison who is a genius. I can never say it enough. Genius!

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      2. https://thejkc.org/clientuploads/2017/JEX/ROTH%20Conversion%20of%20the%20Jews%20Salon%201.pdf

        A typical Philip Roth sentence, story, novel, whatever, will pivot on a spike of dark humor or happy irony. The world is fun and full of funerals. This is probably what it’s like to write when you have had a very great deal of elaborately planned and disapproved-of sex in your life and have pretty much enjoyed every minute, even afterward when you feel like a schmuck. Sex, life, death, the whole package, you either enjoy it or you don’t, and if you’re a character in Roth you do or you don’t, but you always feel something. Too many people telling you too many things, wanting too much from you, things you don’t want to give–you can never be a neutral party. You have to react. And act. This is why the fiction is so full of careening plots and unplanned occasions. Imagine a character from Carver transported into Roth! He’d stand there forever in his gray sport jacket, out at the elbows and hunched, and never get a word in edgewise. “Whatsamatter, pal, ya tired?” some kid would eventually inquire, tootling past on his way somewhere interesting, and in Carver that’d be the whole story.

        http://fictionwritersreview.com/essay/a-boy-and-his-dogma-on-philip-roths-the-conversion-of-the-jews/

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