There’s a passage early in American Pastoral where Nathan Zuckerman, Philip Roth’s most durable alter ego, turns his inability to predict the shocking course of his childhood idol’s life into a universal lament about the limits of perception: “[Y]ou never fail to get them wrong,” he muses. “You get them wrong before you meet them, while you’re anticipating meeting them; you get them wrong while you’re with them; and then you go home to tell somebody else about the meeting and you get them all wrong again. Since the same generally goes for them with you, the whole thing is really a dazzling illusion empty of all perception, an astonishing farce of misperception.”
Struggling through the stultifying, toothless, inappropriately titled documentary Philip Roth: Unmasked on PBS last year, it was hard not to imagine that Mr. Roth had slyly encouraged his unmaskers to get him wrong. The fawning filmmakers lingered on shots of the Great Man composing his work, checked in with some old neighborhood pals and an odd assortment of talking heads and asked Roth no question that he hadn’t already tackled and twisted into a richly ambiguous quandary in one of his novels. The film reeked of good taste and politesse, suggesting that its good Jewish boy of a subject, the one with the bemused twinkle in his eye, would never dare misbehave. In other words, just give him the Nobel already.
The Eight-Day Week
The Prince of UES/Hamptons prep, J. McLaughlin, purveyor of D-ring ribbon belts with ubiquitous skulls and martini glasses, is upgrading its vibe and debuting its modern take on the Ivy League look with a preview at the Museum of Arts & Design, that freaky-modern masterpiece or eyesore—you judge—originally called the Gallery of Modern Art, Read More
Philip Roth is no longer writing books, but that doesn’t mean he has started tweeting–despite the fact that a Twitter feed proporting to be the novelist duped journalists over the Christmas holiday. Well, the line at Chinese restaurants last night was very long.
“I join Twitter today. It’s easy…” @PhilipRothOffic tweeted on Christmas Eve. The account followed various reporters at The New York Times and The New Yorker, as well as other publications with “New York” in the title (including our own). Some responded by wondering if Mr. Roth’s appearance on Twitter did, in fact, herald the end of days. Fellow novelist Salman Rushdie, remained skeptical. “Until there’s a little blue tick by his name I will not believe it,” tweeted Mr. Rushdie.
The phrase “it’s better to burn out than to fade away” has been a rallying cry in music since Neil Young crooned it over 30 years ago. But it’s writers who seem to best embody the sentiment: the burnouts who did themselves in, like Ernest Hemingway and Virginia Woolf, tend to be romanticized long after their deaths by those who believe an untimely end completes some sort of narrative of depression; the ones who fade, the writers who keep pushing out words till their last breath, may not be eulogized, but at least they get to spend their golden years doing what they (presumably) love.
Last month, Philip Roth, one of America’s greatest living writers and its reigning curmudgeon, took a very different route toward career conclusion: he quit. The 79-year-old author of 27 novels, dozens of short stories and countless essays, and the recipient of nearly every major literary award save the Nobel Prize, told an interviewer for the French publication Les Inrocks, “To tell you the truth, I’m done.” His 2010 novel Nemesis would be his last book.
If you write an open letter and post it on a New Yorker blog, you should expect a response. Especially if you are Philip Roth.
Mr. Roth created a medium-sized stir when he discovered Wikipedia and wrote them an open letter on The New Yorker’s Pageturner blog two weeks ago. Mr. Roth took issue with Wikipedia’s entry for his book The Human Stain – the character of Coleman Silk, the professor who “passes” as white was inspired by Mr. Roth’s friend Melvin Tumin, not the author and literary figure Anatole Broyard, as Wikipedia (and frankly everyone else) assumed. Despite the fact that Mr. Roth felt he was an authority on his own characters that he created, Wikipedia required secondary sourcing. It should be noted that the Read More
Get your bets in, literary gamblers: the Swedish Academy has settled on a winner for the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature, according to the AP. The Academy will be announcing the recipients of the other Nobel categories starting on Monday, but it will deprive us of the winner in literature until the Read More
A lovely piece in Talk of the Town this week details how an Italian journalist made up quotes from Philip Roth and John Grisham on Barack Obama (they still maintain warm thoughts, the quotes do not convey that) and how Mr. Roth got to the bottom of it. Read More
“When you publish a book,” Philip Roth once wrote in The New York Times Book Review, “it’s the world’s book. The world edits it.” Not really, actually. When Mr. Roth publishes a book, he edits it. And the Transom has proof!
We were lucky enough to receive both the uncorrected proofs and Read More
Fall is coming.
In publishing, this signals the start of a season that many believe has the best chance of any in recent memory to redeem the industry after one of its darkest years, and to show that, even in 2009, big, beautiful hit books are still possible.
Many publishers are saying their fall catalogs Read More
If you need to be told what status galleys are, chances are you’ve never had the pleasure of owning one. Or, if you need a reminder, here’s the piece we did last summer. Basically the term refers to an advance reader’s copy of a highly anticipated book that hasn’t been published yet. If you Read More