Nobel Prize for Literature is to be announced Thursday!
Philip Roth has given us timeless literature, universal stories, and relationship themes that span human experience. So have many other authors. Roth is my choice this year for the Nobel. His books are both challenging and mind opening. You can start reading this man’s work from his first book and, dozens later, not get tired of where he takes you and what you find. Sometimes he frightens you as to how clearly you see yourself; other times you laugh at the ridiculousness of “others.”
There is a particular delight and discomfort when reading Roth. I think this comes from “feeling” — and allowing your intellectual response to be tested. A profound example can be found in “When She Was Good” — Roth’s 1967 novel about a young woman who lives a life of moral perfection, and won’t hear arguments other than her own. This novel that is saturated with lives portrayed in detail, multiple perspectives on pointed issues of life/love/death/children, and questions about “being good.” Every character is highly flawed; none of their lives is bad. Roth asks, through their eyes, “What is it to be ‘good’ — and how does one communicate this desire to others?” The answers may surprise you. I could not fault any of the characters for how they reacted to so many incidents and troubles.
The purpose Roth serves his stories, and the readers of those stories, is to create an “un-simple” problem confronted by people of every character, intellect, upbringing, and socio-economic status. This is an American writer of the American-experience-in-the-universal. Odd? No. Roth leaves you wondering how often you have known such people. That’s devilishly brilliant storytelling.
The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.