simic on roth


“My fiction is about people in trouble,” Philip Roth told an interviewer after Goodbye Columbus received the National Book Award in 1960.[2] Some of the characters in his novels and stories are in trouble because of their own flaws and the mess they’ve made of their lives, but many of them are either the victims or are in some way implicated in the history of their times. World War II, the McCarthy period, the Vietnam War, the sexual revolution of the 1960s, political terrorism, Watergate, the women’s movement, and even the administration of President George W. Bush all figure in his most recent books. More and more, in Roth’s fiction, history and the individual are interdependent. He writes about the experience and the accompanying moral conflicts of those left at the mercy of events and ideas over which they have no power, the kind of people for whom official history has no place while ideology, too, passes over them in silence. It’s no exaggeration to say that Roth has been appalled by what has happened politically to his country since the days of Nixon and Vietnam.

more from the NYRB here.