Sunday, May 23, 2021

the last book I ever read (Philip Roth: The Biography, excerpt four)

from Philip Roth: The Biography by Blake Bailey:

Roth longed to go away—to live on a proper campus, where, not incidentally, he could pursue a less furtive love life. Around Thanksgiving he encountered the once hapless Marty (“Carl Furillo”) Castelbaum, chatting with friends on the corner outside Halem’s candy store. The young man was transformed: poised and dapper in his white bucks and Bucknell sweater, chatting easily about his pre-med courses and life on campus. Many years later, an elderly Dr. Castelbaum laughed when reminded of Roth’s impression of him as newly mature circa 1950: “That’s not what happened. I had a picture of the shiksa—that’s what happened.” But then, arguably, a tall blonde shiksa was the essence of what Roth had meant by “maturity” and “campus” (in a letter to John Updike, in 1988, he mentioned his appreciation for the actress Kim Basinger and added, “She was what I was looking for at Bucknell”). “This?” he said outside Halem’s that day, gazing at the photo Castelbaum had produced from his wallet. “You’re going out with this?” The young man assured him it was so, and Roth decided them and there that Bucknell was for him.

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