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!!