May 12, 2013
Mr. Roth, I read your lament for the dead—American Pastoral. It is not only a dark, brutal expose of American society, it is also one of the saddest books I have ever read. You lament a time in American society, the 1940’s and 1950’s, when you were growing up in an east coast Jewish neighborhood, and you are absolutely broken-hearted at the loss of it because for you nothing good took the ascendancy afterward.
As a final thrust in the novel, the alcoholic Gentile woman stabs the decent old-time Jewish father-in-law. Are you saying that, despite all of society’s liberal strides, there is nothing new under the sun?
To others out there, I confess that I read this novel unable to put it down. The hook of the daughter who was a bomber held me throughout. I was fascinated with the extraordinary fractured structure of the novel, and felt the author’s presence as a colossal scribbler (in the best sense) of deja vu nostalgia juxtaposed to the violent present. I fell in love with the past he depicted and was sickened with his depiction of the present—just as Phillip Roth ordered me to be.
I’d like to hear from some Phillip Roth readers, especially those who understandably embrace him as their favorite writer. How does this remarkable book sit on your heart? Has the book colored your vision forever? Are you going to move into your advanced years embittered by the world so much that you will become a completely soured old man or woman?
At dinner, I want to say something, anything, that will ease Mr. Roth’s pain.
Do any of you want to join us at dinner? What would you like to ask Mr. Roth?
Do any of you want to come to the dinner? What do you want to say to Mr. Roth?