Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Philip Roth at 80...still relevant, still randy

March 19, 2013, the 80th birthday of one of greatest living American writers, if not THE greatest of our time. Philip Roth, having just retired from the profession, is still racking up awards and shocking readers and his many admirers by retiring and by not apologizing for it or for the thousands and thousands of words he left behind. I could post link after link of articles and interviews to celebrate his achievement but that's been done before and will be done today and in the future several times over and with the recent PBS documentary covering his life and his writing, there will only be more interest in Philip Roth, as if the prospect of "more" makes sense to this man anymore. (see link below for information on the documentary)

For me, on a day like today, I like to look back at my reading and focus on the books of his I loved, the ones that I loved because I experienced them alone and years after they were written, alone with only my brain and my life experiences to guide my judgment, alone with the books themselves and the world created by Roth, worlds often times more depraved than I could have imagined. For example, the experience of reading "Sabbath's Theater" won't soon leave me. But that novel is no surprise, right? A sexual deviant finger puppeteer is bound to have some tantalizing adventures and mishaps. The book won critical acclaim and is considered by some, me included, to be Roth's best novel. Roth himself has the novel in his top 5.

But, there is one of his novels that I always recommend to others and have found few who would read it. For me, it was "Deception" one of Roth's most experimental novels in that it is comprised almost entirely of dialogue with literally only a handful of actual paragraphs to keep the story moving. Published in 1990, the story is told from the point of view of Philip Roth and tracks his conversations with various women before and after sex. Despite this approach, I still felt connected to the women in the story and found the novel both misogynistic and strangely empowering at the same time.

This underrated and infrequently mentioned novel is definitely worth the read for anyone who hasn't read Philip Roth or for anyone who has and still doesn't know what he or she is missing. So on his birthday, I celebrate his writing, ALL of it and while I could spend more time on the Roth canon, I think stopping with
"Deception" is just fine. I mean, I REALLY REALLY REALLY want some other folks to read this damn book so I can talk about it with them!!



DOCUMENTARY-- http://www.npr.org/2013/03/11/174029423/in-philip-roth-unmasked-an-unadorned-portrait-of-an-aging-master

REVIEW-- http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/10/11/specials/roth-deception.html

BIO-- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Roth

Monday, March 18, 2013

Weekend Writing...and Cleopatra

847 words on Saturday, new words, pretty damn good words if you ask me,and yes, hours of Cleopatra research for my daughter. I'm not sure what prompted her interest in the subject but I have to say, having a conversation with a 7 year old about obilesks and hippodromes and asps was not only thrilling, but totally rewarding. That she and her sister and her soon to be step sister all then snuggled into bed with their journals to "write" before bed made the time I'd spent writing earlier in the day that much sweeter.

It's nice for a change to not feel guilty about the words, about the time those words took from some place else. Now if I can only get them to appreciate the fine art of washing dishes...

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Joyce Carol huh?

By way of a reading update, since my last post I've read several novels and thanks to my fiance, I've read some great poems, poems which I've discovered all have references to the wings of a fly in them. Not sure what that is all about but I feel that question and its answer could have its own blogpost so, I'll get to that later.

For now, here is how my 2013 reading year is shaping up:

1. "The Paper Men" William Golding
2. "Tinkers" Paul Harding
3. "Wild" Cheryl Strayed
4. "The Long March" William Styron
5. "Reading Lolita in Tehran" Azar Nafisi
6. "Everyman" Philip Roth
7. "Border Crossing" Pat Barker
8. "Beasts" Joyce Carol Oates
9. "Ironweed" William Kennedy

Of these books, I feel compelled to discuss Joyce Carol Oates' novella that was strangely intoxicating despite being completely unbelievable. I didn't want to like the story even after the first few pages but the writing was top notch and there were passages that were beautiful even if out of place. Maybe that is why I am disappointed in this novella. "Beasts" as a concept in the story is overwrought and ultimately falls flat, the reader left wondering whether the author knew she was missing the subtlety and honesty one would expect from her work. The novella, because it was fast paced with a singular focus on a bizarre student/teacher affair, felt rushed and dirty.

I wanted to wash my hands after reading this. I wanted to find a pair of flame retardant pajamas. I wanted to sink into my couch with a rolled up towel over my eyes to not have to worry about being burned or seeing headless totems and mangled nudes across the room, sitting naked on a stool in my kitchen, or drinking my drug spiked wine.

Mostly, I wanted to forget this book because every part of me told me not to like it, that I shouldn't like it. BUT I DID and I can't fully comprehend what that says about me if it says anything at all.