Philip Roth: Why Write? Collected Nonfiction 1960-2013
One would have to be a devoted fan of Philip Roth in order to truly enjoy this book, which is a collection of essays. The essays are mostly in rebuttal to his critics. Many of his critics accuse Roth of anti-semitism based on his portrayal of fictional Jewish characters. Roth can be quite funny at times, especially when he pens letters to Dostoevsky accusing him of being biased against Russian students, based on the model of Raskolnikov or Flaubert being biased against French women based on Madame Bovary. Roth quotes Chekov that “the task of the literary artist lies not in solving problems but in properly presenting the problem.” This Roth does brilliantly in his fourth of thirty-one books, Portnoy’s Complaint. It is perhaps his most famous book. He alludes to the complaint when he cites “the solitary activity that is so difficult to talk about aloud and yet so near at hand.”
Not all the essays in the book reach the level of his interviews with Edna O’Brien and Joyce Carol Oates; these are really the highlight of the book. One has to read two-thirds of the book before running into Roth’s approach to writing and his love of the English language. Recommended for devoted Roth fans.
Library of America