Philip Roth as a Dinner Guest?

May 12, 2013

I just experienced my first exposure to one of Philip Roth’s novels. I chose “American Pastoral” because the title had the sound of soft melancholy. WELL, I discovered that the novel ranks with the darkest, most brutal classics I have ever read. And I have read some!

American Pastoral was published in 1997, thirteen years ago. In 1998 Mr. Roth received the National Medal of Arts at the White House and in 2002 the highest award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Gold Medal in fiction.

Nevertheless, after reading American Pastoral, would I want to invite him for dinner at my house   (Would I have wanted to invite Franz Kafka?)

Roth is about 80; he was about 64 at publication and several years younger of course when he started writing the book. Could he have grown softer since then? Or has he grown steadily darker until he ultimately turned off all the lights on writing and sees life through a pinhole?With compassion, I thought to send him my novel based on my parents’ life, The Provider.  Mr. Roth concocted a cast of characters who bring themselves down as well as each other, and all of society, leaving no one and nothing at all. The Provider is not a concocted story.  It is a European  Jewish immigrant story that studies two preeminent Jewish values: The Woman of Valor and The Man of Good Heart. I am a product of the same era as Phillip Roth: the 50’s. I would like to quote from Myron Tribus, Former Director of the Center for Advanced Engineering Study at MIT: There is no such thing as an immaculate perception. What you see depends upon what you thought before you looked.”

I have sent Mr. Roth a copy of the novel. I hope he finds his way to reading it. Then I would like to invite him for dinner at our house.

Would you like to have Mr. Roth for dinner at your house?