Sunday, December 05, 2010

Philip Roth

I have been reading Josh Lukin on facebook. He and his friends were discussing favorite authors, especially Philip Roth. I finally posted:
This is a demoralizing discussion, since I have never read Philip Roth and don't plan to. I have read Willa Cather and Chekov and Lou Reed. I even have a book of Lou Reed lyrics... But I think, all in all, I will crawl into a cave and gnaw on Icelandic sagas.

Josh commented that this was sad, and another friend commented that I belonged in a cave if I hadn't read American Pastoral, which is by Roth.

I looked up American Pastoral in Wikipedia and thought, why would I care about the problems of late 20th century, middle class men in New Jersey? I'm not a man; I don't live in New Jersey; and I am not interested in the problems of the middle class.

The intensity of my response was because I'd been put on the defensive. I'm not entirely comfortable with the spottiness of my reading. It's possible there are treasures I am missing. But I think I'd sooner read Grapes of Wrath or the unabridged version of Journey to the West.

I think I want the exotic, the fantastic or the political when I read. Best of all is all three.


Blogger Josh said...

Eleanor, it's fascinating that you took my "Yes it is sad" to mean that your indifference to Roth was sad; the chap who consigned you to a cave thought my "Yes it is sad" to be an endorsement of your "This conversation is demoralizing," which he had taken as a denunciation of PR. And I was indeed, with my "Yes this is sad," agreeing with your statement that the conversation was demoralizing. Partly because I think Roth is a little overrated and am suspicious of people's love for him.

I apologize for the ambiguity that led my remark to sound like a criticism of your reading.

10:07 AM  

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