Philip Roth! To Jon’s delight, the boys spend the bulk of this episode ruminating on the style, method, and subject matter of Philip Roth, using the opening of The Human Stain as the springboard for the conversation. They also offer a quick update about their writing, revision, and submission process.
Topics & Reading Discussed
- The opening of Philip Roth’s The Human Stain is a solid introduction to the author.
- Jon recommends you start with The Ghost Writer, but Portnoy’s Complaint, Sabbath’s Theater, Operation Shylock, and American Pastoral are also good books to check out.
- While you’re investigating Roth, be sure to read Claudia Roth Pierpont’s literary biography Roth Unbound.
- The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Rain Main, Copperhead Road, and the Royal Rumble: 1988 was a pretty good year.
- Brian is enjoying Tony Earley’s first collection of short stories, Here We Are in Paradise (especially the wrestling story, “Charlotte”).
- Jon recommends Jon Ronson’s new book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, though in truth you could get the gist of his argument here at the NY Times.
- To spite misguided college protests, go pick up a copy of Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, which was recently under dispute at Duke.
I don’t know what’s going on in Cathy Day’s literary citizenship class, but her students are coming away with a harsh (realistic?) view of publishing. On one hand, I really admire this effort at professionalism, but on the other hand, I’m not sure it’s good for writers (or at least, their writing) to be obsessing over publishing before they’ve spent some time on their craft.
Most contemporary literary fiction is terrible, says a guy who writes contemporary literary fiction. He makes some fair points, and I think you can waste an awful lot of time trying to keep up with the hottest new writers out there, but I’m also skeptical of blanket statements like that.
Here’s a feel-good story for those of you toiling away: A teenager just landed a three-book deal for her romance novels. It sounds like writing is her hobby, and she plans to do other, perhaps better things with her life.
PBS aired its American Masters special on Philip Roth last night — well worth checking out.
James Salter’s new novel, All That Is, comes out Tuesday. Rumor has it that it’s the 88-year-old author’s best work. Why isn’t he more popular?
That’s the inside back flap of an early edition hardback of Portnoy’s Complaint. Even DeLillo and Pynchon jacket flaps offer a complete sentence as a bio statement. I love that Roth’s just lets the work speak for itself. Also, as Ben noted, Roth looks like he’s about to seduce the photographer. (Also, also, it’s not like a bio statement appears anywhere else on the cover either.)