Thursday, May 24, 2018

The New Arker

Philip Roth died May 22, 2018. With his passing, only a very few American writers of his caliber remain: DeLillo, Pynchon and perhaps Cormac McCarthy; though for sheer readability on a sentence-by-sentence basis, Roth towers over all. 

As ever, the Economist is at its most insightful: all great artists, he inhabited and embodied contradictions. You cannot disagree with him more than he disagreed with himself. He wrote about patriotism and he hated patriots. He wrote about idealism and he despised idealists. He wrote about the family with great love, and yet he railed against the asphyxiation of family. He was a moralist who loathed moralists. He was an atheist locked in lifelong battle with a God who neither cared nor existed. His subject was often no more than ten square miles of New Jersey and therefore the whole world.
He was fearlessly engaged with the profane and the repellent; and yet his work is apt on any page to break out into such passages of compassion and sorrow that the reader is ambushed all over again—this time by emotion.
Do read the entire obituary in full: Philip Roth was one of America’s greatest novelists

NF has read only a very few of his books: American Pastoral (1997), The Plot Against America (2004), The Human Stain (2000); and of course, Portnoy's Complaint (1969). Two others were ordered at the news of his passing: Goodbye, Columbus (1959) and I Married A Communist (1998).

The overwhelming power of his writing to amuse, please, astound; and of course to so effortlessly move one, remain unparalleled. His replacement will be hard to find.

Goodbye Columbus!

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