I agree with you elle. Roth may be audacious, but I hardly think of him as a genius. There have been too many deserving writers who have been passed over—Nabokov, Borges, Cortazar, Fumiko Enchi come to mind. Roth is not one of them. Nobel Prize is not a lifetime achievement award. So we usually gets authors whose works have some political or moral idealism at the core. Nor would McCarthy or Pynchon. Perhaps Vollmann who writes about violence and poverty. In American Pastoral the great American novel, if such a thing actually exists , Swede does not find Merry living in New York or anywhere else.
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They are every bit as technically brilliant — and far more moving — than any of the more championed meta-fictions and experimental works that literature teachers love to assign. If Roth had written only the Zuckerman books, he probably would already have the Nobel Prize. There is a difference. Instead he dared to be prolific, he dared to take chances, he dared to fail, and, worse, dared to be a celebratory for non-literary reasons.
Roth is brilliant. He is also the defining writer of America from the 60s onward. He deserves the Nobel Prize.
I think that the bookmakers will get it right this time: the Nobel will go to Adonis, because of the Arab Spring thing. And I do think that there are many better options than Roth even though I love some of his novels. Speaking of writers that never received the award I would add to the list the Argentinian genius Roberto Bolano and the Greek Nikos Kazantzakis. Roth deserves it before McCarthy, who although a great storyteller, has one note he plays over and over again.
Yes, Roth has written some bad books. Roth does. HIs career has ben distinguished by remarkably sustained quality. Roth is indeed one of the best living American novelists, and I would be thrilled if he won for many of the reasons listed above.
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I think, though, that if he ever was going to, he would have won the Nobel by now. The only living American novelist I think has much of a shot right now is William T. Vollmann, because of the breadth and ambition — and the empathy — of his work. I so agree that he deserves to be recognised as one of the most important writers living today, and should be recognised as such.
I agree with the comment about him not having been chosen yet as he does not toeing the PC line.. I find his books very very moving and enthralling , and have a full shelf of his work which I loan out to people as a special treat to them and they return them to me so that I can pass them on to others and give them the opportunity to know Roths work… He has become part of my life now. Great article. Makes me eager to go back and re-read Roth.
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It is, indeed, time to recognize this brilliant novelist with a Nobel award for literature. Fine piece- why not Roth?
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Also, I think that Roth, in The Counterlife and the American Trilogy what a horrible name for it , was writing about ideological purity and fanaticism, from all over the political and religious spectrum, something that he began in his also-underrated When She was Good. Am i missing something here as there is not one ref to Joyce Carol Oates. One absurd argument against her is that she is too prolific. Roth is much deserving of Nobel Prize but, unlike Mr. Bourne, I found The Human Stain to be the weakest of the three.
One of the great gifts of the Nobel is that it bestows international recognition on writers who could and should benefit from that. Roth is already flamboyantly famous, acclaimed, and wealthy. To me, Roth writes anything but stereotypical stock characters. They may appear so upon first encounter, but gradually unravel into something so much more complex, though the reader is left with some mystery as to what motivates them or causes their behaviour or why their personality is the way it is. Roth is certainly the greatest living American writer.
From Goodbye Columbus to the present day he has put together a body of work that is simply without peer. His personal life is irrelevant. Picasso was no angel, but the paintings speak for themselves. Still, I agree with the previous comment that if Roth were going to win the Nobel he would have won it by now. A shame nonetheless. Then I stop pointing out that only second-rate minds with an axe to grind would deny Roth the prize. Of course there are multiple, legitimate critiques of Roth, however much I disagree with most of those I have read. My gratitude to Billy, who has pointed out the obvious.
Not only does Michael Bourne not consider any of the other contenders for the prize, it never even occurs to him that he should. And yet his introduction begs for it; so does his last line. One or two of those others might even analyse history brilliantly. One or two might consider the essential unknowableness of the human heart.
Maybe one or two are even audacious. Maybe one or two are among the best their country has ever produced. It would be good to know. So thank you, The Millions, for this long article on Philip Roth. Satchidanandan, Mircea Cartarescu, Christa Wolf, and the rest? Preening for prizes is should have been above him but no. Keep groveling, Phil. It seems that belittling Henry James has become a sort of sport among morons.
James lives years after his death; Roth will be buried along with his body. Your email address will not be published. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam.
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To dare to write about many different characters, and to keep them straight without the help of actors, is in many ways a bold endeavor. It imposes several duties upon the author. JANE SMILEY Well, each time a character speaks, he is likely to speak in a way that differs from every other character and also from the narrator because distinctiveness is one of the main methods an author has to organize his characters so the reader can keep them straight.
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