“Sheer Playfulness and Deadly Seriousness are my closest friends.”
“Without a novel I’m empty. I’m empty and not very happy.”
“The way he crafts a sentence — he just unpacks the world.”
Aimee Pozorski, associate professor of English
Yes, Roth reigns — at least for a while! This week, the prolific, peckish author celebrates his 80th birthday — and he has plenty of company! Washington, DC just hosted a bash for him and the Philip Roth Society is pulling out all the stops (yes, there’s a Society devoted to obsessively analyzing him, complete with a literary journal, interviews, dissertations, and all manner of Rothiana).
The Society is hosting a two-day conference for our boy Phil in Newark, where he was born, grew up, and went to school. There are bus tours of spots he’s immortalized in his writing, a raft of scholarly talks, and an exhibit in The Newark Public Library, where a birthday bash is also planned. Philip is expected to attend and I’m sure a good time will be had by all. What a gas!
Though Phil is a notoriously reclusive fellow, it’s hard to imagine that he wouldn’t enjoy all this hoopla. As an author who’s beloved and admired by many for his fertile imagination, his intense work ethic, and his stylistic discipline, he must surely find it gratifying to be exposed to adoring readers. Here’s what Fran Bartkowski, chair of the English Department at Rutgers University Newark, says about Roth in the Star Ledger:
“Roth’s fiction, which he recently announced he is done writing, will remain for the ages a source of intelligence, wit and a remedy against amnesia about working-class American life in the mid-20th century. It will remain an ongoing encounter with the deviced of fiction whose many tricks of the trade Roth has perfected and offered for our consideration. He has created so many memorably troubled and troubling characters — young, adolescent, middle-aged or dying.”
What a lovely tribute to a dedicated writer! Who could ask more of readers than to have them feel that you have brought intelligence, wit, and fierce remembrance to the subjects you chose to embrace? And that you created memorable characters of every age — even if, as Fran points out, “there are very few well-realized female characters in his writing?” Well, no one’s perfect and no one seems more dedicated to the craft of writing. Bravo, Philip. Write on!