Wednesday, May 26, 2021

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

from Philip Roth: The Biography by Blake Bailey:

The Nice Jewish Boy was sound enough to rate a reading at the American Place Theatre on June 23, 1965; Roth wanted to hear it performed in front of an invited audience, so he’d have a better sense of how to proceed toward a final draft. The director was Gene Saka, and the two lead parts were read by promising off-Broadway actors, Dustin Hoffman and Melinda Dillon. But it was no good. Roth hectored Hoffman to be more “forceful”—his usual desideratum for dramatic portrayals of characters based on himself—but neither man could make the play or its eponymous hero very original or interesting. Roth withdrew it after the reading, and spent a year or so vaguely considering another rewrite before deciding that he disliked the whole collaborative aspect of theater; meanwhile the Ford grant wasn’t enough to live on, so he resigned after six months and took a teaching job for the fall.

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