Sunday, June 16, 2024

Great, Great Novelist and Writer Philip Roth is Dead at Age 85, End of An Era in Modern Literature


Stunning: Philip Roth is dead at age 85. Saul Bellow, Bernard Malamud, Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut, John Updike, Norman Mailer. It’s sort of incredible, but the titans of literature who I grew up worshiping, admiring, are all dead. William Styron, Richard Yates, John Cheever. All gone.

Roth was the winner of many prizes, including the Pulitzer and National Book Awards. His books were hilarious and provocative, from “Goodbye, Columbus” and “Portnoy’s Complaint” to “The Ghost Writer,” “The Counterlife,” and dozens more. Philip Roth was famous for revealing Jewish life for a generation of post-War kids. He was controversial and combative, and alarming.

It’s almost impossible to think that Philip Roth is dead, actually. (I see this right now as Twitter fills up with tributes.) He’s occupied so much of my mind for 40 or 50 years. Terrible. God bless. So weird– just yesterday someone on my plane home asked me who my favorite living writer was and I didn’t hesitate to say his name.

Here’s the New York Times obit.

Movies were made from Philip Roth’s books and stories. They’re all worth checking out, although the best is from the story “Goodbye, Columbus.” “Portnoy’s Complaint” was a feature film, so was “The Human Stain.” More recently, Barry Levinson made a very good movie out of “The Humbling.”

Part of the great sorrow of learning of this death is that you knew Roth was always aiming for perfection. This is what he did. It was a higher calling.

From “The Ghost Writer”:

“I turn sentences around. That’s my life. I write a sentence and then I turn it around. Then I look at it and I turn it around again. Then I have lunch. Then I come back in and write another sentence. Then I have tea and turn the new sentence around. Then I read the two sentences over and turn them both around. Then I lie down on my sofa and think. Then I get up and throw them out and start from the beginning. And if I knock off from this routine for as long as a day, I’m frantic with boredom and a sense of waste.”

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

Read more

In Other News