Friday, June 4, 2021

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

from Philip Roth: The Biography by Blake Bailey:

Garner also reported that Roth was “poking his head out of his shell a bit more” these days: Though he refused to go on book tours, Roth was happy to sit in a New York studio and do radio interviews, albeit a bit less happy (“you feel like a goofball”) appearing on TV; he seemed uneasy when Katie Couric of Today persisted in wondering why he wrote so many books: “I write them because I don’t know how else to spend the day,” he replied at last, sincerely enough. A Newsday journalist seemed rather surprised to find Roth “a very nice man” in person, cooperative and polite, though a certain line of inquiry would always get his hackles up. When a Guardian interviewer referred to Plot as his “great Jewish history,” Roth’s rebuke was swift: “It’s my most American book,” he said. “You would never tell Ralph Ellison that Invisible Man is his most Negro book, would you?” When the cowed man remarked that Roth was “extremely difficult” to interview, Roth laughed. “I wasn’t put on this earth to make your life easy.”

Roth’s stipulations were clear: interview questions were “to be restricted to professional life, books published, literature and other writers, background (family, education, Newark). No questions on marriages, divorces, personal finances, current politics.” With regard to that last verboten subject, Roth insisted he was “just a citizen like anybody else” and so disinclined to impose his irrevelant opinions on the public. And yet, in the wake of his American Trilogy and The Plot Against America, Roth was beginning to strike readers as a leading authority on our political life—what with his keen ear for the rhetoric demagoguery, his insight into the way the electorate is manipulated by simple messages and hoked-up threats to national security. Finally, twelve years after Plot, with the election of Donald J. Trump, Roth would seem a bona fide prophet. Both his fictional Lindbergh and the forty-fifth president, after all, had stoked nativist bigotry while expressing admiration for murderous dictators, to whom each man seemed vaguely or not so vaguely beholden via some sinister form of kompromat.

No comments:

Post a Comment