24 May 2018 - Philip Roth Dies at 85
Philip Roth, the Incomparable American Novelist, Has Died at Eighty-Five
(The New Yorker, 22/05/2018)
Philip Roth, the American literary icon whose novel “American Pastoral” won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, in 1998, has died, at the age of eighty-five, according to friends close to him. His great subjects, as Claudia Roth Pierpont wrote in this magazine, in 2006, included “the Jewish family, sex, American ideals, the betrayal of American ideals, political zealotry, personal identity,” and “the human body (usually male) in its strength, its frailty, and its often ridiculous need.”
Roth published his first story in The New Yorker, “The Kind of Person I Am,” in 1958; the following year, another story in the magazine, “Defender of the Faith,” prompted condemnations from rabbis and the Anti-Defamation League. “His sin was simple: he’d had the audacity to write about a Jewish kid as being flawed,” David Remnick wrote in a Profile of Roth, in 2000. “He had violated the tribal code on Jewish self-exposure.” In 1979, in its June 25th and July 2nd issues, The New Yorker published—in its entirety—“The Ghost Writer,” the first of Roth’s novels to be narrated by his fictional alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman. (As Claudia Roth Pierpont wrote, in 2013, Roth’s editor at the magazine, Veronica Geng, was the one to “march into the office of . . . William Shawn, put the manuscript on his desk, and say, ‘We should publish the whole thing.’ ”)
Philip Roth was one of America’s greatest novelists
(The Economist, 22/05/2018)
If there is one detail of Philip Roth’s biography that is worth knowing, it is not that he was Jewish or that he had no children or that he was born in New Jersey—it is that he preferred to write standing up at a lectern. There are pages of his work where the irrepressible vitality of his writing seems to glow on the page as if charged with some kind of existential incandescence—the great and persistent question of his novels being no less and no more than: what the hell do human beings think they are doing here on Earth?
Mr Roth died on May 22nd. His work will forever be synonymous with verve, energy, wit, ontological wrath and—above all—a total commitment to both subject and style. His career began in 1959 when he was accused of being anti-Semitic following the publication of one of his early short stories, “Defender of the Faith”, in the New Yorker. The row nearly overwhelmed him. “What is being done to silence this man?” wrote a prominent rabbi. But real fame—and literary and commercial success—came with “Portnoy’s Complaint”, published in the revolutionary year of 1969.
A Philip Roth Reader
Tina Jordan and Susan Ellingwood (The New York Times, 22/05/2018)
The death of Philip Roth on Tuesday at the age of 85 from congestive heart failure has people around the world reflecting on his body of work. The Times’s obituary described him as a “towering novelist who explored lust, Jewish life and America.” With more than two dozen novels to his name — many of which were made into films and even a coming television series — Roth was one of the few living writers to be enshrined in the Library of America. He also bears a “striking resemblance” to a character in a recently released — and widely acclaimed — debut novel by Lisa Halliday.
Here is a sampling of our reviews of his work, which also includes an essay he wrote for us in 1987 and an interview he did in 2012, announcing his retirement.
Philip Roth obituary
Eric Homberger (The Guardian, 23/05/2018)
“I write fiction,” warned Philip Roth, “and I’m told it’s autobiography. I write autobiography and I’m told it’s fiction, so since I’m so dim and they’re so smart, let them decide.” That half-defensive, angry note and a lifetime as a novelist crafting multiple “fake biographies”, gave Roth, who has died aged 85, an enigmatic status for tidy-minded critics. He won intense respect from the moment in the 1960s when he joined Saul Bellow and Bernard Malamud in a Jewish troika at the centre of American literature. But there remained doubts, demands for clarification, as though he had not been writing literature after all, but committing a long, strained, perhaps not wholly candid act of self-revelation which merited the critics’ distrust.
Roth’s first book, Goodbye, Columbus (1959), sold a more than respectable 12,000 copies in hardback and received the National Book award. The big one – the Nobel prize in literature – eluded him, but there can be few American literary careers so richly laurelled, early and late. He was a bestselling writer only once in his career, when Portnoy’s Complaint (1969) sold 420,000 copies in the first 10 weeks after publication.