Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Defending Philip Roth

Philip Roth has won the Man Booker International Prize, and a judge on the prize jury has quit in a huff. “Emperor’s clothes,” says Carmen Callil, the founder of Virago Press. “In 20 years’ time will anyone read him?”

I try to answer her question here.


David Gruber said...

I think the aptest answer to Carmen Callil's question is: "Who is Carmen Callil?"

D. G. Myers said...

Yeah, but I’d already tweeted that.

Archambeau said...

As any of my friends with whom I've argued about Roth over the years could tell you, the idea of me defending Roth is a bit like that of Nixon going to China. But Callil's statement that Roth isn't even a writer at all is so blatantly imbecilic, I'm boarding the next flight to Shanghai.


D. G. Myers said...


That a critic of your literary learning and gifts does not cherish Philip Roth more highly is deeply depressing. Can I borrow a Zoloft? Or lend you a book?


Joe Ynot said...

Her story is profoundly weird; she doesn't have to like Roth, but the "not a writer at all" statement sounds like something she has heard in her own little circles so many times that she's lost the ability to grasp that it's plain stupid and will cause most interested people to discount her opinions altogether.

Archambeau said...


Believe me, people have tried to argue me into loving Roth. But we're all immune to the generally-acknowledged charms of something or other, I suppose. I did enjoy Goodbye Columbus and The Professor of Desire. After that --well, it's not for me.



forcheville said...

Virago have published some excellent books, but I look for other editions whenever possible due to their shoddy printing and use of low-grade paper. It came to seem that they were trying, even in this way, to make a politico-social statement, and in a particularly joyless and grubby English way. (Orwell's aspidistra comes to mind.)
This lack of respect for her own writers leaves one little cause to expect that there is any value in Ms Callil's other literary opinions.

scott g.f.bailey said...

Ms Callil is of course entitled to her opinions about Roth. I admit to a certain ambivalence regarding his work myself. But I do find it crass that Ms Callil is publically trashing the winner of an award for which she sat as a judge. The Man Booker prize is supposed to be about the writing and the authors, I thought. I didn't realize it was actually about the emotional experience of the judges. Ms Callil's reaction to Roth's award is childish.