Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Open letter to Philip Roth

On what he has meant to his readers, especially his Jewish readers: the daily feature this morning at Jewish Ideas Daily.

3 comments:

Rand Careaga said...

There's something to be said, though, for an artist going out at, or at least not embarrassingly past, the top of his game. Transparent Things, for example, would have made for a far better Nabokoda than Look at the Harlequins! or (shudder) The Original of Laura. Roth by contrast leaves nothing in his oeuvre* of which he, or we on his behalf, need feel ashamed.

*Boldly asserted and plausibly maintained, as my wife is fond of describing legal bluffs, since I've actually read fewer than half his novels.

R.T. said...

I confess to feeling excluded from (and less interested in) Roth's writing, perhaps largely because of what you have identified as Roth's Jewish focus; Flannery O'Connor's and Walker Percy's Roman Catholicism creates a similar exclusion (for me)--but on a smaller scale because of my experience as a Protestant Christian in my early years. All of this raises a question: Just as regionalism (if it still exists) tends to limit a writer (and I could have also cited dozens of other categories for writers), in what ways do you think that religion (or a writer's complete immersion in a religious culture) can similarly limit a writer's "outreach" to and connection with other readers?

Susan Messer said...

I've been thinking about this post since I read it yesterday. First, the father you describe, and especially the particular kind of not-ambitious ambition you describe in him, reminds me of my own father. Those qualities perhaps did grow out of or relate to that era, but they do still reside deeply in me. Second, I'm not sure his work-path story directly relates to your own work path, as yours has writing as its focus. Writing is a very particular kind of ambition, with its multiple punishments and misunderstandings. And I'm not sure you have to conclude that there is any particular lesson for your children, except whatever you've been telling them and showing them all along. I know you admire Christopher HItchens, and he didn't pull punches in the integrity department.