So I woke up this morning to the news that Philip Roth had passed away at the age of 85. Today also happens to be my 2nd wedding anniversary. What do these two things have in common? Glad you asked…
My husband and I met online and we bonded over a love of books. His profile said to ask what he is reading…so I did. He was reading Tom Robbins, I was reading Philip Roth. BJ replied that he had read a bunch of Roth’s stuff (not in a pretentious way) and I was like, wow, this guy is smart. So whenever I think of Philip Roth I am reminded about that conversation and it makes me smile.
Although I didn’t finish the book – it was American Pastoral, I didn’t really get into it – I have a soft spot in my heart for Mr. Roth. He was one of those authors that I thought that I really should read his stuff. What I have come to realize and (mostly) embrace is that even though an author is influential and important, I don’t have to like their writing. Or even read their books.
One of the headlines I saw was “What Made Philip Roth the Great American Post-War Novelist” and that made me think about the difference between American and Canadian literature. BJ actually referred to this post-war thing in his recent blog post, saying that this style is where he feels at home. Honestly, I never thought about this before. Growing up in Canada, this wasn’t something that delineated literature – or alternatively, it’s possible I was asleep during those lectures in English class.
It’s also possible that not being American, and growing up with that experience is an impediment. I think of authors like Roth, Hemingway, John Irving as writing about the American experience, (albeit from a white male perspective). Maybe my Canadian-ness is getting in the way of me embracing these authors. Maybe it’s time I revisit Mr. Roth and American Pastoral now that I am living in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Obviously Roth was an influential and important author. We were lucky to have him and even more fortunate to have his legacy in books.