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A Second Great American Writer in the Last Eight Days Has Died: Philip Roth Was 85

May 22, 2018  •  Post A Comment

“Philip Roth, the prolific, protean, and often blackly comic novelist who was a pre-eminent figure in 20th century literature, died on Tuesday night at a hospital in Manhattan,” writes Charles McGrath in The New York Times.

He notes that Roth, 85, died of congestive heart failure.

The Times obituary says, “In the course of a very long career, Mr. Roth took on many guises — mainly versions of himself — in the exploration of what it means to be an American, a Jew, a writer, a man. He was a champion of Eastern European novelists like Ivan Klima and Bruno Schulz, and also a passionate student of American history and the American vernacular. And more than just about any other writer of his time he was tireless in his exploration of male sexuality.”

The Times story also notes that “Mr. Roth was the last of the great white males: the triumvirate of writers — Saul Bellow and John Updike were the others — who towered over American letters in the second half of the 20th century.”

Roth’s death comes just eight days after writer Tom Wolfe, 88, passed away.

Notes the Los Angeles Times’ obituary, “Roth’s first book, ‘Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories,’ came out in 1959, propelling him to national prominence and the first of his two National Book Awards. The titular novella explored the cultural divide between working-class Neil Klugman and the beautiful Brenda Patemkin, whose upper-middle-class life of consumption and privilege Roth lampooned unmercifully, drawing early rumbles that he was a self-hating Jew.”

Ten years later Roth published “Portnoy’s Complaint.” Notes the L.A. Times, “Readers made ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’ a bestseller, and the income from the book, combined with the movie rights to ‘Goodbye, Columbus,’ gave Roth the financial freedom to quit his teaching job at the University of Pennsylvania and devote himself to writing full time.”

To see Roth tell a wonderful story about his mother and the publication of “Portnoy’s Complaint,” please click here.

Also, below, in this very short clip we found on YouTube, Roth tells Tina Brown that he’s not optimistic about the future of the novel:

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