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Philip Roth: Portnoy's Complaint and American Pastoral author dies at 85

'The novelist Philip Roth, who explored America through the contradictions of his own character for more than six decades, died on Tuesday aged 85.

Roth’s career began in notoriety and ended in authority, as he grappled with questions of identity, authorship, morality and mortality in a series of novels that shaped the course of American letters in the second half of the 20th century. He refracted the complexities of his Jewish-American heritage in works such as Portnoy’s Complaint, American Pastoral, The Human Stain and The Plot Against America, which garnered both critical and commercial success, garlanding their creator with a dazzling succession of literary prizes...'

Me and the Monkey: How Philip Roth Created Literature for Female Dirtbags, Too

'On a first date when I was 21, a guy recommended that I read Philip Roth, so I went to a bookstore and bought a copy of Portnoy’s Complaint. I’ve since learned that this is something of a cliche, and that I probably should have been offended, but I was young and eager to please, so I read it.

The guy ghosted me—the last text I sent him was a 'Just finished, what a fucking book!' that he never responded to—but I didn’t really mind. I had, at last, found a person in the world who was as lewd, demented, solipsistic, and petty as I worried I was in my worst moments—that was Alexander Portnoy. And in his creator, I saw some kind of wisdom, if only I could soak it all in...'


The Presence of Philip Roth

'In the fall of 2007, I sat down to try to write a letter to Philip Roth, whom I’d never met. I’d started many letters to him in the past, only to put each aside, newly frustrated by my inability to write the letter I had in mind. But the more time that I let pass without writing to him, the more it bothered me that a certain longstanding gratitude and affection had gone unvoiced. So I explained to him that in his books I found a peculiar, sustaining solace. That, although there were other writers whose work I returned to often, no matter how much I loved them, they didn’t provide me with the very particular thing that he did. What was it? This was the difficult bit to express. 'I suppose it has something to do with a certain force of life that everything you write seems to throw off,” I told him, “as well as the promise that such aliveness can exist in something that sits so aside and seemingly apart from life (or so it seems up in one’s writing room); perhaps, even, has a better chance of existing there. Something to do with your lifelong examination of the writing mind, its needs and paradoxes, its incompatibility with so much else, and also its fierce pleasures. And it has everything to do with how, reasonably and unreasonably, I feel at home in your books.'



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