Thursday, November 20, 2008

When Lowbrow Meets Highbrow

'It’s embarrassing to admit, but I guess I’ve been hoping that Philip Roth will look the way he writes. Unbound. Supernal. Or even more stupidly, that the act of looking at Philip Roth will somehow deepen my understanding of his work. I’ve assumed that I’ll take one look at him and think: Philip Fuckin’ ROTH! Instead, I see an unremarkably handsome 75-year-old approaching from a hallway at his publisher’s office, tall, lean, a swimmer, angular and focused face, skin subtly dappled with age, dressed for comfort in a white-collared shirt, brown corduroys, old loafers—a man indifferent to being looked at or to what people make of what they see when they do—and think merely: Huh. That’s Philip Roth.'
From a profile of the formidable novelist in GQ magazine, once itself a formidable magazine, but now sadly reduced to a shell of its former self, dumbed down for non-readers. Anyway, we're glad to see they still occasionally try to tackle serious subjects. We touched on Roth earlier here and here.


At 1:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bet Philip Roth was a philosphy major, too.

(Okay, okay, I'll stop.)

At 4:51 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

That's a good question. Anyone care to do the research and find us an answer? What did the father of Portnoy's Complaint major in during his college career?

At 6:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good guess, Mike, but he was an English major - even taught it (sorta).

This from Wikipedia:
Roth grew up in the Weequahic neighborhood of Newark, New Jersey, as the second child of first-generation American parents, Jews of Galician descent, and graduated from Newark's Weequahic High School in 1950.[2] Roth went on to attend Bucknell University, earning a degree in English. He then pursued graduate studies at the University of Chicago, where he received an M.A. in English literature and worked briefly as an instructor in the university's writing program. Roth went on to teach creative writing at the University of Iowa and Princeton University. He continued his academic career at the University of Pennsylvania, where he taught comparative literature before retiring from teaching in 1991.

At 6:42 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Excellent! Thanks for that, Rita.

At 1:23 PM, Blogger TJ Sullivan said...

Thought I'd share Roth's view on reading fiction while writing fiction ... don't do it:

"I read quite a bit. I just finished two books by Milan Kundera - essays called The Curtain, and a novel called Ignorance. Before that, I read a new biography of Joseph Conrad. Before that, a long book by Tony Judt called Postwar, a marvellous, epochal book of the history of postwar Europe. Usually I don't read fiction when I'm writing fiction. I read the Kundera because I'd read the book of non-fiction. And he's a friend. The problem is, the book of fiction you're reading is finished and polished and expert, and what you're writing is so crappy that you get doubly depressed. Best to avoid it."


Here's the full Q&A link from Globe and Mail:

At 1:30 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Interesting stuff, TJ. Thanks for adding it, and it's always wonderful to see your name in the comments section. Have a great LA holiday if you're staying there or a good Motown Thanksgiving if you're headed home.

At 3:51 PM, Blogger TJ Sullivan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 5:21 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

I'll certainly check out those photo, bud. I remember taking my youngest son to the big--no, massive--Detroit Auto Show a few years ago, when he was a pre-teen and really into cars. It was an overwhelming experience, the size of it and the glitz and the incredibly cool concept cars. He took a bunch of photos that day that remain on his bedroom wall, all these years later. It may be my very favorite memory with him.


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