Philip Roth’s interview in the Financial Times ahead of his visit to London to pick up the Man Booker International literary prize is an exercise in avoidance. Roth avoids answering the tough questions by letting the interviewer get away without asking them. For an author who’s used alter ego to advantage, Roth is presenting himself in a way we doubt is really him. Way to play it!
If Roth’s claim that he no longer reads fiction is the article’s attempt at something resembling sensationalism — “I read other things: history biography…I wised up”– the rest is something so predictable that I predict you’ll be bored. What is interesting is the journalist’s hand wringing about the author’s reputation and love of privacy. She can’t believe he’s being nice. “As we talk, Roth is perfectly courteous, perfectly charming, perfectly defended.” Hers is a sterling example of procrastination and out-and-out avoidance with, no doubt, a bit of hero worship as well, despite that bit at the end about feminism.
She should have slapped the guy. Just kidding.
Even more interesting are the comments that follow The New York Times “Arts Beat” blog item on Roth. People hate the man! They hate fiction!. They hate people who hate fiction! Talk about Indignation! These are exactly the kind of feelings that Roth’s been able to inspire over the last 50 years. This is why we love him. And Zuckerman, too. —Cabbage Rabbit