Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Philip Roth (1933-2018)

Philip Roth died today.  It is incredibly sad to think  I will never read another of his books.  Philip Roth was the novelist of my lifetime.  I read everything he wrote, as it came out--from Goodbye Columbus to Nemesis.  I was glad to have read then all, but of course I had favorites:  Portnoy's Complaint, The Ghost Writer, The  Counterlife, Deception, Operation  Shylock, American Pastoral, The Human Stain, The Dying Animal, The Plot Against America--acually I loved each of  his books in a different way.

Philip Roth wrote books that were based in  his  life, but they were not autobiographies.  This is something I think  a lot of his readers misssed.  He was able to create characters and inhabit them.  The most beautiful example of this is the trilogy, American Pastoral, I Married a Ghost, and The Human Stain.  In each one he imagined himself into a completely different American identity: three ways of being an American in the twentieth century.

One of Roth's late novels borrows Yeats's phrase the "dying animal."  Like Yeats, Roth continued to both write and grow as a writer throughout his life.  There is early Roth, middle Roth, and late Roth (as is true for Yeats--or even Shakespeare).  They are connected but different, and  it was exciting to follow him as he found new ways to make a novel. 

Roth was, to my mind, the greatest living  American writer.  I don't know who I will take his place.


Sunday, May 20, 2018

Not Much Happening Here

May is a "between" month.  The beginning is Louisville  and the end is the Lake.   

I feel kind of in limbo, and am hoping that the lake will fix it.  Most of my Louisville friends are elsewhere.  Graduation is over and my last doctoral student was beautifully hooded.  Medical six-monthly appointments are almost done.  Waiting for spring.  ETC.

I have finally gotten back to work on  my book.  The picture above is the little nook I set up in the kitchen because my hamstring is still keeping me from sitting for long periods.  I have finally (FINALLY) almost finished the chapter on Art Nouveau.  I'm not really happy with it because it feels more like a "list" of various architects and their work,   than a coherent discussion.  But I decided to plow through and  get it done, so I can put it away and move forward.  The next chapter should be much easier to write.  It's the pivotal chapter on Odon Lechner, who is the reason I got interested in all this in the first place. 

But a week today we leave for Lake Medora, and time becomes organized in much more meaningful ways.  The ice is off the lake and the trees are starting  to get green.  Another spring to look  forward to.