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Philip Roth, RIP
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Roth started strong, fell off the pace when a novelist is typically in his prime, then rebounded remarkably in his 60s and kept going in his 70s. His rival Updike, in contrast, took an odd pleasure in having a career like an athlete’s, with a long decline phase after a mid-career peak.

As I wrote earlier this month when the Swedish Academy announced that it wouldn’t give out a Nobel Prize in Literature this year for some complicated #MeToo reason:

So, you octogenarian white guys Don DeLillo, Philip Roth, Cormac McCarthy, Thomas Pynchon, Tom Wolfe, and Tom Stoppard (parents evidently liked the name “Thomas” in the 1930s), try not to die before October 2019 because Nobels aren’t given out posthumously. On second thought, as straight white guys you were all pretty much out of the running anyway, not with talents like Ta-Nehisi “The Genius” Coates around, so don’t worry about it.

 
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  1. Anon[106] • Disclaimer says:

    GodDAMN at this rate all of the geriatric white american 2018 Nobel hopefuls are going to die, all from the stroke of being denied even the chance this year. They just couldnt take it any longer.

  2. Anon[106] • Disclaimer says:

    All the geriartic white american writers are going to die from the stress of knowing they didny even have a Goddamn CHANCE at winning the 2018 nobel

  3. Anon[275] • Disclaimer says:

    Bernard Lewis just kicked too, 102 years young. The ever-reliable Google knowledge organizer search doohickey informs me his net worth was $2.5 billion–sounds legit

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  4. Do people in the know think Roth should have gotten the Nobel?

  5. I am || this close from posting this quote on the hacker news thread in response to the guy saying how “Plot Against America” changed his entire worldview.

    “What I’m saying, Doctor, is that I don’t seem to stick my dick up these girls, as much as I stick it up their backgrounds – as though through fucking I will discover America.”

    https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/7626949-what-i-m-saying-doctor-is-that-i-don-t-seem-to

  6. @Anon

    There’s an NBA player from Spain whom Google got confused with a billionaire from Mexico with the same name, so most NBA players believe he’s a billionaire who just plays basketball for fun, kind of like how Julia Louise Dreyfus doesn’t really need to act.

    • Replies: @AndrewR
    , @Janus
    , @njguy73
  7. @blahbahblah

    That’s from Portnoy’s Complaint, right?

    • Replies: @Tim Howells
  8. Wolfe and now Roth. Damn.

  9. @Cloud of Probable Matricide

    Roth was a major American novelist, although there happened to be a lot of them born around the same few years in the 1930s, so they tended to step on each other’s toes in terms of Nobel prizes.

    • Replies: @JimB
    , @Malcolm X-Lax
  10. @Cloud of Probable Matricide

    Roth was a major American novelist, although there happened to be a lot of them born around the same few years in the 1930s, so they tended to step on each other’s toes in terms of Nobel prizes.

    • Replies: @JimB
  11. Lot says:

    I was about 20 the last time I read a novel. I read them a lot between age 6 (Laura Ingalls and Beverly Cleary) until I was 13 (detective novels, Stephen King, and Ayn Rand), which is when we signed up for Compuserve. After that, only when forced to in school.

    Nonfiction is just more interesting and entertaining for me.

    In terms of aesthetics, the classics of English poetry are preferable.

    I wonder how many people these days read Dryden and Pope voluntarily. I enjoy them a lot in small doses. Too much and I have to watch out I don’t drop any of their antique language into conversation and then seem even stanger than I normally do. Same thing when I was watching the Sopranos and started swearing more, or at least had to consciously prevent myself for a while.

  12. Anonymous[420] • Disclaimer says:

    In a possibly apocrphyal story, a certain Hollywood actress shook hands with Philip Roth, at a major showbiz awards ceremony, but without knowing exactly who the distinguished gent she shook hands with was. Asking a fellow thespian, the identity of the stranger was confirmed.

    “Gee” she allegedly said, looking down at her hand, “I just hope he washed his hands”.

    (Sorry).

  13. I haven’t read anything of his that I’m aware of. I’ve heard of Portnoy’s Complaint. “Portnoy”, to me, is primarily a humorous name. Berke Breathed did more to evangelize Portnoy than Roth ever did.

    Fiction writers will be hardest hit by random anonymous Internet wits who can say a lot in three paragraphs or less.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  14. Dave Pinsen says: • Website

    Nonfiction has, in recent decades, borrowed a lot of novelistic techniques (“narrative nonfiction” / “new journalism”). Tom Wolfe was one of the pioneers of that.

  15. @Steve Sailer

    “What I’m saying, Doctor, is that I don’t seem to stick my dick up these girls, as much as I stick it up their backgrounds – as though through fucking I will discover America.”

    That’s from Portnoy’s Complaint, right?

    Right. The “RIP” sentiments are far more generous than my own.

  16. Anonymous[420] • Disclaimer says:
    @Demeter Last

    Apparently ‘Portnoy’ means ‘tailor’ in Russian.

    • Replies: @Demeter Last
  17. Anonymous[427] • Disclaimer says:
    @Anonymous

    In a possibly apocrphyal story, a certain Hollywood actress

    Usually attributed to Jacqueline Susann.

  18. TheBoom says:

    Roth was one of those “geniuses” only a philistine wouldn’t worship whose talent was something I would search for but couldn’t find. Updike was another one. I liked the first two Rabbit books but found the rest sterile. For me Wolfe, Bowles, Stoppard and McCarthy were the ones who merited the fuss.

  19. Dan Hayes says:
    @Anonymous

    Anonymous [420]:

    Some time ago I heard novelist Jacqueline Susann making the statement “I hoped he washed his hands” on the Long John Nebel radio program.

  20. @Anonymous

    “Portnoy” means something else in this American’s lexicon.

    • Replies: @Anon
  21. I’d never read anything by this person until The Plot against America, and then only because I liked the basic premise.
    I was distinctly underwhelmed and would say that anyone who thinks of Roth as a decent writer has never read, well, a decent writer.
    One other point: there is a real Plot against America, and Roth’s kinsmen led it and lead it.
    But most everybody here already knows that.

    • Replies: @JimB
    , @anon
  22. Tyrion 2 says:
    @Lot

    The bien pensant myth for why novels are superior to other media, that they require your imagination, is annoying, upside-down claptrap.

    Sure, if it is Game of Thrones you need to imagine the dragon rather than see it but that is neither a particular benefit nor, nowadays, cognitively demanding.

    The real reason is that novels require far less imagination and social intuition from the reader. The best give you a direct appreciation of what goes on in the characters’ heads, as created by the very finest social observers in history.

    The world would be better if people read more (great) fiction.

    • Replies: @Jack John
    , @Ian M.
  23. Dave Pinsen says: • Website
    @TheBoom

    Steve’s blogged about it before, but Updike’s The Coup is excellent.

    • Replies: @Dieter Kief
  24. @Cloud of Probable Matricide

    Do people in the know think Roth should have gotten the Nobel?

    The Nobel literature committee may have picked up a case of Portnoy’s complaint from the peace prize committee.

  25. Pericles says:
    @blahbahblah

    Roth might have been a good choice for the #metoo era.

  26. Pericles says:
    @Lot

    I wonder how many people these days read Dryden and Pope voluntarily. I enjoy them a lot in small doses. Too much and I have to watch out I don’t drop any of their antique language into conversation and then seem even stanger than I normally do. Same thing when I was watching the Sopranos and started swearing more, or at least had to consciously prevent myself for a while.

    Whatever you do, don’t listen to rap music.

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
  27. robot says: • Website

    Great fiction and great poetry appeal to a form of intuitive intelligence that used to win a lot more respect than it does now. The challenge of creating an AI that can hear the beauty in language isn’t on anyone’s radar, wouldn’t be taken seriously.

  28. @Dave Pinsen

    As are Updike’s “The Terrorist” and: “Seek My Face” (for those who love Abstract Expressionism and the like – and are interested in – getting old and – – – being young (two women meet, an old lady (a painter) and a young art historian working for a webzine).

  29. Jack D says:

    The sign of a great novelist is that his work is unfilmable. Roth, Wolfe, Nabokov, I.B. Singer, etc. – when you try to transfer their magic to the screen, it vanishes. If you are a hack who writes soap operas in novel form – Gone With the Wind, Dr. Zhivago, etc. it translates perfectly, but greatness is like lightning in a bottle and does not travel well.

  30. AndrewR says:
    @Steve Sailer

    Except for the most dissipated players and/or the lowest-paid players very early in their careers, all NBA players are “just playing for fun.” The average NBA player earns more in a year than most people earn in their entire lives.

    • Replies: @PV van der Byl
  31. @blahbahblah

    Substitute the word “raping” for “fucking” and it matches Eldridge Cleaver’s sentiments about prowling white neighborhoods for victims of his racially-motivated payback.

    • Replies: @DFH
  32. @TheBoom

    One should not speak ill of the dead, especially not during the very same week that they died, and most especially not in venues where they seem to be admired; but nevertheless, I’m about to do so.

    Tom Wolfe was an atrocious writer. Abominable. Practically unreadable. How this man ever attracted a following is quite the mystery. He wrote like a smart-alecky high schooler trying to fudge his way through a book report. If somebody doesn’t say this, then we’re all just standing around admiring the emperor’s new clothes.

    And truthfully, it’s hard to think of a single American novelist whom I would read just for the sheer pleasure of the thing. They have, by and large, been a pretty much uninterrupted congeries of depressing hacks ever since Melville. I’m not talking about the popular writers, the penners of mass market paperbacks, SF&F, or young adult ficition—a lot of their stuff is rather good when measured by its own standards. I’m talking about those literators who make it onto the lists of American Greats and who are force-fed to English students throughout the length and breadth of the land. Salinger, Updike, Hemingway, Faulkner, O’Conner—I woudn’t touch those books again if you paid me. I do find Fitzgerald to be enjoyable at times, not necessarily for his plots or characters but just for a certain esprit that he has. I have always appraised works of fiction not so much for their specific content but more for their general aura and the atmosphere they give off. It is the accent, the terroir, the periodicity of the book that strikes me most. I suppose that’s why I’m a Janeist. Miss Austen’s books are nothing but atmosphere.

    There really isn’t any such thing as the Great American Novel, for Americans are shallow and will not bear criticism nor even understand it. There is no depth of art without depth of soul, and Americans have no depth of soul. Fitzgerald, once again, understood this. His famous line about there being no second acts in American lives is universally misquoted and misapplied. Most people seem to think that he meant there were no second chances in American lives, i.e. that you get one shot at fame and fortune and if you blow it, it’s over. But in reality, the phrase “second acts” was referring to the structure of a play, the act in which conflict appears. The first act is all exposition, all introduction, all display. By saying that American lives have no second acts, Fitzgerald meant that they are devoid of conflict, crisis, and resolution—basically devoid of character. America is the land of “first acts” only. Everything here is exposition.

    The whole idea of the American author is a fairy comical thing. We should have acquired more historical experience before we ventured to write at all.

    • Replies: @Anon
    , @Ian M.
  33. Motions/ emotions, place, athmosphere, the wether, getting the impression of being physically entwinded with the action… that’s what film is made for, whereas thoughts (and especially arguments, which need lots of intellectual context), suffer – or live a very restricted life on the silver screen.
    Two fine exceptions: David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method (about Freud, Jung, Gross and Spielrein) and La Maman Et La Putain (Jean Eutache).

  34. iffen says:
    @Lot

    Nonfiction is just more interesting and entertaining for me.

    Agree.

    When fact is, in fact, stranger than fiction, what’s the point in reading fiction?

    “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”

    ― Mark Twain, Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  35. @Anonymous

    It was, I think, a writer for the London Sunday Times, commenting on the week’s bestseller list when Portnoy’s Complaint was lead fiction title, who wrote: “Philip Roth is holding his own at Number One.”

  36. @Jack D

    Agreed. And I am not even talking about great, “classic” novelists (Conrad, , Faulkner, ..or Thomas Mann (Doctor Faustus) & Hermann Broch (The Death of Virgil), whose philosophical meanderings are simply unfilmable).

    Among good novelists, novels are generally better than movies (Little Big Man, Straw Dogs, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,..).

    On the other hand, 2001: A Space Odyssey is hardly comprehensible without a novel & Benchley’s Jaws is plainly inferior to the movie.

  37. @Jack D

    Bonfire of the Vanities would make a great miniseries in the right hands.

    Gone with the Wind contains a lot of good insights into how women think.

  38. bjondo says:

    Never read Roth. Did he specialize in the whiny Jew?

    Good riddance to Bernard Lewis. Should have taken Bernard Henri Levy with him.

    Is BL the Muslim “expert” who spread most of the nonsense US media mouths about Muslims, Arabs?

  39. DFH says:

    A repulsive, overrated Jew with a fanatical hatred for white people is dead, oh well

  40. inertial says:

    Roth or Wolfe wouldn’t have gotten this year’s Nobel anyway. They gave the prize to an American only two years ago; no way they’d award another one so soon. My guess is that the 2018 Nobel will go to South Asia or Middle East.

  41. inertial says:
    @Jack D

    LOL @ Pasternak being a hack.

    • Replies: @Jack D
  42. JohnnyD says:

    Sadly, Roth’s Plot Against America is what he’ll be remembered for. When you read that novel, you get the absurd idea that much of FDR’s America was almost as bad as Nazi Germany for the Jews. In my opinion, Roth started out as a rebel against the Jewish establishment, but as he got older, he became more acceptable to the New York Times and NPR crowd. In his last interview with The Times, he even praises Ta-Nehisi Coates (I think the young Roth would have laughed at Coates).

    • Replies: @BB753
  43. I read Philip Roth’s 1973 novel The Great American Novel several years ago, and it was really funny. I don’t remember much about it, but this reader’s review makes me want to read it again:

    But then you reach the part where Mister Fairsmith ventures into the black heart of Africa to spread the gospel of baseball (Really.) and it is basically like watching BIRTH OF A NATION narrated by a cackling David Duke and your eyes roll into the back of your head and you want to go back in time and punch Roth in the throat and/or drop him into Compton and wash your hands of his bullshit.

    http://www.librarything.com/work/29464/reviews/62330379

  44. Janus says:
    @Steve Sailer

    I think it’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus rather than Julia Louise Dreyfus. Also, Steve, have you ever considered keeping some of your less time-sensitive posts stored away so that you could have something to post when you are either taking a well-deserved rest or working on a longer piece. Occasionally we’ll go days with no new posts, and then at other times they’ll hit rapid-fire. When you post really quickly, some of them tend to get less attention than they might otherwise merit.

    • Replies: @Dissident
  45. segundo says:

    Could care less about Roth, but McCarthy deserves a Nobel.

  46. JimB says:
    @Steve Sailer

    The way so many great bands in the 60s and 70s stepped on each other’s toes at the Grammys.

  47. JimB says:
    @Steve Sailer

    I wonder if being born at the height of the Depression had something to do with increasing the likelihood of becoming an author. Maybe it’s because so many men weren’t working so they stayed home and talked to their kids, teaching them a hard knock philosophy about life.

  48. JimB says:
    @Old Palo Altan

    Yes, but others of his kin are leading the fight to save America. Great mental acumen can do either great good or great evil. Or very little of anything.

  49. I have no wish to deny Roth’s greatness, but I think that in all his explorations of male lust he never found a way to steer it into the channel of reproductive success. By which I mean, that by insisting on its primacy he consciously chose a sterile path. Sort of representative of the baby-boom generation altogether, although he was born before it. Otherwise, would Lindbergh really have inaugurated a Judeocidal regime? I tend to doubt it. However, RIP.

  50. BB753 says:
    @Cloud of Probable Matricide

    I don’t think so. Virtually nobody reads Roth abroad.. Unlike Tom Wolfe who’s also a best-selling author in Europe.
    Of Steve’s list, the only other author really popular outside of the US is Cormac McCarthy. Of course, Swedes from the Nobel Academy don’t usually award the Nobel Prize to popular writers, unless they’re liberals like them. But something has changed in the Nobel Academy, not only the metooing and all that. I bet 90 % of the Academy members were born after WWII, guys and gals in their early seventies to late fifties, that is, in essence, they’d be called Boomers in the USA. Which explains why one day they all got high and voted for Bob Dylan, for old time’s sake.
    So, I guess after Bob Dylan, the natural choice would be.. Bruce Springsteen, Obama’s buddy. Lol!

  51. MarcB. says:
    @TheBoom

    It’s fair to say that Philip Roth gained traction not only for the quality of his writing, but also for being ahead of curve of the cultural zeitgeist that emerged in late 1960′s America.

  52. @Steve Sailer

    There were many major American non-Jewish writers, many who were gay, who complained quietly about the domination and focus of the literary scene in and around NYC by Jewish writers and critics from the 1950s onward. We see the same dynamic at play in the twitter feeds of the today’s critics and taste makers. David retweets an article by Josh who retweets a reply by Matthew who snarks something about Ben. A bunch of jews just chatting among themselves, basically. Capote, Tennessee Williams, Kerouac, and Vidal are all writers off the top of my head who noted the incestuous ethno-chauvinistic nature of the NY literary scene. As for Roth, I read Portnoy’s Complaint and Goodbye, Columbus many years ago. They were ok. Problem is, I don’t think of my sisters and mother nor most of the women I know as “shiksas”.

    • Agree: Mishra
  53. @John Derbyshire

    Johnny Carson told a joke back at the time of the book’s release about how Doc or Ed couldn’t be there for that show because he was home suffering from “Portnoy’s Complaint”, which gives a bit of an idea of what a cultural phenomenon the book was at the time.

  54. I was saddened when the Nobel prize for literature was not handed out this year. I really thought that it would be John Norman’s year. He has written the longest running planetary romance. That should count for something.

    • Replies: @utu
  55. anon[257] • Disclaimer says:
    @Old Palo Altan

    I agree with you. I read his auto biography garbage Goodby Columbus Portniy’s complaint and a couple others when I was younger because everybody read them.

    Just another Brooklyn Jew running his mouth about his life. Who cares?

    I looked through The Plot Againist America. It’s just a re write of “ It Cant Happen Here written by some leftist propagandist in the 1930’s

    • Replies: @Old Palo Altan
  56. bjondo says:

    If Roth had talent beyond his claque, Jew privilege would have some how given him the Nobel.

    He didn’t, so no one received the Prize.

  57. @Jack D

    “The sign of a great novelist is that his work is unfilmable.”

    Ohhhh you mean like the

    “Right Stuff”.

    • Replies: @Dave Pinsen
    , @Jack D
  58. The Plot Against America was the worst book I’ve ever encountered.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  59. hyperbola says:
    @Cloud of Probable Matricide

    Roth always seemed to me to be a foreigner from an incestuous, racist sect that had little to offer Americans or anyone else beyond the sect. If he had a chance at the Nobel, it would only only have been because the sect to which he belonged is part of the “literary in the know” ownership of the majority of publishers.

    • Replies: @Dave Pinsen
    , @Lot
  60. I think isteve commenters are too hard on Roth. He was filthy, yes, and his mind was in the gutter, but then so is literally every kid I knew in middle school through college.

    The Jews will outgrow their adolescent sexual immaturity. It takes longer for them because they are biologically different. But when a talented Jew reaches intellectual maturity, he has the ability to outclass all.

    You’ll see. Just wait. Someone better than Thomas Wolfe is coming.

  61. Dave Pinsen says: • Website
    @EliteCommInc.

    The Right Stuff wasn’t a novel, though I don’t agree with Jack D’s claim. Whether the work is filmable depends on the talent of the filmmakers.

  62. Dave Pinsen says: • Website
    @hyperbola

    It’s refreshing to see someone oppose racism here. Looking forward to future comments of yours where you continue to do that.

  63. Jack D says:
    @EliteCommInc.

    Although the Right Stuff wasn’t a novel (though Wolfe uses novelistic techniques in his non-fiction) the movie was a pale shadow of the book and only proves my point. The movie was (rightly) a commercial failure. Bonfire of the Vanities (the movie) was an even bigger fiasco and didn’t even come close to capturing the characters in the book.

    • Replies: @Stan Adams
  64. @Jack D

    Comment Nr. 35 is another answer.

  65. DFH says:
    @ThreeCranes

    I believe that was also ghost-written by a Jew (Daniel Horowitz), not to say that that blacks don’t probably share the sentiment

  66. Whiskey says: • Website

    Bernard Lewis was awesome if a bit too sympathetic to the Ottomans. His Muslim Discovery of Europe using archival material on Muslim attitudes towards Europeans and their massive cultural differences particularly towards women was masterful.

    A reminder that History goes back farther than last Tuesday.

    Never read or had any interest in Roth.

  67. utu says:
    @flyingtiger

    It is possible that Roth did not get Nobel prize because too many people bet on him getting one. The scandal in Nobel committees is not sex or MeToo but about betting on and rigging Nobel prizes.

  68. @Jack D

    I like to compare the The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990) to The War of the Roses (1989). Both were black comedies, but only the latter had the courage to carry its nastiness all the way to the end. No hugging, no learning.

    Courage aside, Bonfire was doomed by the casting. Tom Hanks as an über-WASP investment banker, Melanie Griffith as an irresistible whore, Bruce Willis as a cynical British journalist, Morgan Freeman as a crusty Jewish judge?

    Interestingly, the then-unknown Uma Thurman was considered for the role of Maria. Hanks didn’t like her.

    If you get the chance, read The Devil’s Candy – a behind-the-scenes account of the making of the film.

    • Replies: @anon
  69. Anon[229] • Disclaimer says:
    @Intelligent Dasein

    They have, by and large, been a pretty much uninterrupted congeries of depressing hacks ever since Melville.

    Including Melville?

  70. I’m kind of puzzled by Roth’s death, because it seems unexpected.

    Sure, he was 85 — but supposedly he was in good health as of this January, according to this interview:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/16/books/review/philip-roth-interview.html

    He was said to have died from congestive heart failure, but that would seem to be a condition which is very slowly progressive.

    So was he lying about being in good health in January?

    Nowadays, when someone dies at 85, they generally are suffering from a known condition, or have a sudden stroke or heart attack. In one’s nineties, it’s a different story; one can pass away in one’s sleep.

  71. • LOL: Jim Don Bob
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    , @Jake
  72. @AndrewR

    Bill Laimbeer, longtime center for the Detroit Pistons, was famous for saying “I am the only guy in the NBA who makes less money than his father ” This was literally true as his father was CEO of Owens Illinois.

  73. Lot says:
    @Jack D

    I just watched a 2017 4-part BBC adaptation of Howard’s End, and enjoyed it. It is supposed to be one of the great novels of its era.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howards_End_(miniseries)

    Tracey Ullman had a supporting role, and her enjoyment of being on camera showed, and it was good acting and realistic pre WWI sets all around.

    • Replies: @DFH
  74. @PV van der Byl

    I know a couple who went to high school in lovely Palos Verdes with Bill Laimbeer. They went on to get jobs with McKinsey and JP Morgan.

  75. DFH says:
    @Lot

    I refuse to watch that since it is impossible to improve on the Merchant Ivory version

    • Replies: @Lot
  76. Lindbergh might have permitted “Jew”-free zones (as well as black free zones and all kinds of other exclusionary criteria) to exist in America but Roth’s portrayal of Jewish resettlement in The Plot Against America was typical of Jewish porn.

  77. Lot says:
    @hyperbola

    Foreigner? I’ll have you know that American Jews are big patriots.

  78. Anonymous[185] • Disclaimer says:
    @iffen

    I always feel that I’m wasting my time when I read fiction.

  79. Roth was talented, but the bit about the liver went too damn far.

  80. anon[263] • Disclaimer says:
    @Stan Adams

    Interestingly, the then-unknown Uma Thurman was considered for the role of Maria.

    That’s not interesting.

    • Replies: @Stan Adams
    , @Simon
  81. Anonymous[185] • Disclaimer says:
    @John Gruskos

    It sounds like it may be worth reading, for an insight into the mentality of certain people

  82. Janus says:

    When I first started reading your comment, Fitzgerald sprang immediately into my mind as the closest thing to an exception. He was the type of man that in another time and place might have attained depth of soul, but instead served as an example of what happens to a spiritual temperament in America. I agree that we are generally hacks in all forms of art. In the realm of poetry, I’ve always considered Conrad Aiken to be greatly underrated, especially his Preludes for Memnon and Time in the Rock, which were intended to be read as one whole. I have a soft spot for Randall Jarrell, although I wouldn’t go so far as to claim he was a great poet.

    • Replies: @anonymous
  83. BB753 says:
    @JohnnyD

    From Business Insider ( are their insights into business as bad as into politics? ) :

    ” In 2004, Roth published “The Plot Against America,” about a family of American Jews in Newark, New Jersey, who are strong supporters of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In the novel, Roosevelt loses a bid for a third term to Republican presidential candidate and world-famous aviator Charles Lindbergh.

    Roth once wrote that his novel was not meant to be a direct portrayal or a warning of current and future political times, but it has not prevented comparisons between the novel’s plot and the current political climate in the US.

    Lindbergh’s character in the novel resembles much of what many see in Trump today: an isolationist with an “America First” philosophy. The novel features Nazi Germany interfering in the presidential election, prompting comparisons to the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. ”

    http://www.businessinsider.com/philip-roth-trump-and-plot-against-america-2018-5

    Trump=Lindbergh=Hitler

    • Replies: @Jake
    , @Flip
    , @JohnnyD
  84. @anon

    “It Can’t Happen Here”.

    If only it had, then the “here” of today might still bear some resemblance to the “here” of the ’30s.

    • Replies: @Lot
    , @Reg Cæsar
  85. Jake says:
    @Thorfinnsson

    Whoever Jeremy McLellan is, I like him.

  86. Jake says:
    @BB753

    Globalist thinking at its most sophisticated.

    • Agree: BB753
  87. Lot says:
    @DFH

    I thought I was downloading the MI version until I opened the file.

    While I can’t compare directly, the newer version was about four hours long, so had more space to be faithful to the book. It was also a nice sharp HD optimized for the small screen. Though analog film can be as good HD digital, it typically is not.

    BBC PC did kind of invade the 2017 version, Jackie was made light skinned black or possibly Arab, and the sisters had a dark black maid. Black maids and reformed floozies did exist in 1910 London, but blacks were far less than 1% of the population. They also made the crowd scenes about 1 in 30 non-whites.

  88. @John Derbyshire

    Off topic, but I used to subscribe to National Review (I still remember the pre-internet yearly letters from Bill Buckley himself, printed on buff paper, well written indeed, sent to every subscriber except the libraries, I suppose, describing how important contributions were, and treating me as if the bucks I might cough up were the long-awaited manna of Western civilization in its years of wandering) and I always looked forward to that part in the beginning of the magazine where, one short paragraph after another, unattributed observations on the past fortnight were set forth. There were usually 40 or so separate paragraphs, often ending with a little memorial notice of some great conservative of whose existence I had only little awareness.

    I think that John Derbyshire wrote many of my favorites.

    I don’t think he reads the rancid comment threads under his own contributions so I will say this here, Derbyshire knows how to write. Doesn’t appreciate his Anglican and Christian heritage enough, but who among us is perfect?

    • Replies: @Old Palo Altan
    , @Ian M.
  89. Lot says:
    @Old Palo Altan

    And the Nazis would have conquered Europe.

  90. anonymous[393] • Disclaimer says:
    @Janus

    wwebd said:

    yes, Conrad Aiken is very very good.
    Trumbull Stickney as well.
    Wallace Stevens is very good.
    The sonnet girl, Edna, is very good, and the aw shucks farmer boy, Frost, is very good.
    T.S. (Tom Eliot) Eliot was very gifted, his Four Quartets are as good as Paradise Lost, he is one of the great poets of all our lapsarian times.

    Of course none of these poets could effectively order the best possible meal and wine at a really good restaurant, because they were born in a farm country, far from the old world, where so many of the best restaurants always have been found, but words are immortal, sometimes, when those words “have what it takes” to be immortal

    Nobody who does not live half a lifetime in two separate countries is competent to comparatively assess the good poets of countries that they have not lived in for a lifetime.

    America is like the Beulah land of the Bible if you think of true poetry as the way you think of one place being like another,at its best, when those who have something to say have conversations with those who know how to listen, and how to respond

    Wake up reread Ephesians and Phillipians, fast, as if they were brand new letters

  91. Jack D says:
    @inertial

    Nabokov thought so too – he called Zhivago melodramatic and vilely written.

    • Replies: @inertial
  92. @Jack D

    How about Jane Austen? Her novels are hardly soap operas, but they’ve proven to be quite filmable.

    The 1995 BBC miniseries adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is some of the best TV around.

    Fiction in English has enough room for diverse forms of greatness.

  93. inertial says:
    @Jack D

    Pasternak was a genius-level poet. Zhivago is not his greatest effort (and the best thing about it are, naturally enough, the poems.) The only reason the novel became so famous was because it was useful as Cold War propaganda. Sadly, the rest of Pasternak’s work remains unknown.

  94. The 1995 BBC miniseries adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is some of the best TV around.

    Indeed. Pride and Prejudice got a lot of female attention because of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, but Jennifer Ehle is luminous as Elizabeth Bennett, especially in this scene where she rejects Darcy.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxwHYftgFWE

  95. @Old Palo Altan

    “It Can’t Happen Here”.

    If only it had, then the “here” of today might still bear some resemblance to the “here” of the ’30s.

    Ah, but we fought fascism abroad in order to impose it at home. So it did happen here. The reds just liked the results, so they don’t complain about it.

  96. @MEH 0910

    Beverly Cleary is amazingly still alive:

    And Ramona began as the annoying little sister of a secondary character, then managed to take over the whole series. That’s also amazing in a way.

    • Replies: @MEH 0910
  97. @Pericles

    Whatever you do, don’t listen to rap music.

    Speaking of Beverly Cleary, she wrote what could be the greatest rap chorus ever: “Horsemeat, Ribsy! Horsemeat!”

    The 1950s were a golden age of proto-rap. The Music Man was full of it, and, thanks to Rex Harrison’s inability to sing, so were My Fair Lady and Doctor Dolittle.

  98. njguy73 says:
    @Steve Sailer

    kind of like how Julia Louise Dreyfus doesn’t really need to act.

    That’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor Laureate Dreyfus to you.

  99. njguy73 says:
    @Jack D

    The sign of a great novelist is that his work is unfilmable.

    And then there’s Dan Brown, who might as well put lighting and camera placement instructions between paragraphs.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  100. @njguy73

    Who is the most filmable novelist? Jane Austen? Dashiell Hammett? Stephen King? Dumas?

  101. @Steve Sailer

    Who is the most filmable novelist? Jane Austen?

    Great question.

    The case for Austen is pretty strong:

    ***The 1995 P & P, as I mentioned above, is still the gold standard for adaptation of a novel set in an historical period. Some people also speak highly of the version starring Keira Knightly, but it doesn’t work for me.

    ***Ang Lee’s 1995 Sense and Sensibility film is also pretty spectacular, although again I don’t like it quite as much as some others. There’s also an excellent 2008 S & S miniseries.

    ***There are several very good film adaptations of Emma, including the two 1996 versions, starring Gwyneth Paltrow (she’s competent), and Kate Beckinsale (she’s utterly bewitching), respectively, plus an excellent 2009 version starring Romola Garai as Emma, and Dumbledore as her hypochondriac father.

    ***Northanger Abbey was filmed surprisingly successfully in 2007; this version mostly captures the tongue-in-cheek tone Austen was going for.

    ***There are watchable versions of both Mansfield Park and Persuasion, although I think both still await their definitive film interpretations.

    ***The recent Love and Friendship, with Kate Beckinsale returning to her Austen roots, is highly diverting, if not exactly a weighty piece of work.

    There are only a few outright failures, e.g. the 2007 version of Mansfield Park starring a surly Billie Piper as Fanny Price.

    All in all, I’d say it’s a formidable track record.

    And how about Ian Fleming and John Le Carre as candidates for this award?

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    , @Jim Don Bob
  102. @The Last Real Calvinist

    The pre-WWII Pride and Prejudice with Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier wasn’t as good as it could have been.

    But, yeah, Jane Austen has a high batting average for adaptations in recent decades, along with “inspired by” films like “Clueless.” In contrast, Henry James has a lower batting average and they appear to have stopped trying to make so many Henry James movies as they did in the late 20th century.

    • Replies: @Jim Don Bob
  103. Anonymous[272] • Disclaimer says:

    Roth was trapped in a tiny ethnic universe. The echo chamber sustained him but the echo chamber moves on.

    If say, Kubrick, spent his career in a Rothian micro-universe then Kubrick would be an obscurity. Phil Spector was crazy but he didn’t spend his artistic career in a Jewish cul-de-sac.

    Great Jewish artists break out of cramped tribe stuff and live in the larger world. Roth was an angry shtetl dweller.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  104. MEH 0910 says:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portnoy%27s_Complaint#Writing

    Progress on the novel was slow because Roth was suffering from writer’s block relating to his ex-wife, Margaret Martinson, and the unpleasant notion that any royalties generated by the novel would have to be split equally with her. In May 1968 Martinson was killed in a car crash in Central Park. Roth’s writer’s block lifted and following Martinson’s funeral he traveled to the Yaddo literary retreat to complete the manuscript.[7]

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    , @Jack D
  105. @MEH 0910

    That’s funny.

    It would make a good Columbo episode: “Just one more question, Mr. Roth, you said you were having writer’s block fulfilling your big contract, but then you wrote the entire bestseller in the 90 days following your ex-wife’s violent death. Was there a connection?”

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
  106. @Anonymous

    Lots of writers stick to a small place for their novels: Faulkner, for example. Roth was a loyal son of Newark. It worked for him.

    Most of Updike was set in exurban Pennsylvania or Massachusetts. I really liked Updike’s book set in Africa, “The Coup,” but it was a lot more work for him to research and write than most of his other books.

    Waugh got a lot out of his travels, even though he had a good market writing Mayfair and country house novels at home.

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
    , @Herzog
  107. @anon

    One man’s interesting is another man’s boring.

  108. @middle aged vet . . .

    A nostalgic evocation of what was enjoyable about the old NR (to which I never sent a penny, despite BB’s elegant cajoling), and a pithily accurate characterisation of the estimable if flawed JD.

  109. @Steve Sailer

    I really liked Updike’s book set in Africa, “The Coup,” but it was a lot more work for him to research and write than most of his other books.

    It’s much easier when half of your offspring marry Africans.

  110. @The Last Real Calvinist

    I agree with your list and just want to point out that most of the Austen adaptations were done by Andrew Davies who was a high school English teacher. Most of Austen’s work does not have much action, so the trick is to bring out on film the characters’ inner dialogues. For instance, P&P is told almost entirely from the perspective of Elizabeth Bennett. For another point of view, there is the very clever book Mr. Darcy’s Diary.

  111. @Steve Sailer

    The pre-WWII Pride and Prejudice with Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier wasn’t as good as it could have been.

    Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier were both way too old. Darcy is 27 and Elizabeth 20 or 21 in the book. Plus you can’t really tell the story in 2 hours. I have seen all of the P&P adaptations, and the 6 hour 1995 BBC production is far and away the best.

  112. @Steve Sailer

    It would make a good Columbo episode: “Just one more question, Mr. Roth, you said you were having writer’s block fulfilling your big contract, but then you wrote the entire bestseller in the 90 days following your ex-wife’s violent death. Was there a connection?”

    One novelist convicted of murdering his wife was Michael Peterson, who concentrated on Marine life. His weapon was evidently a fireplace poker. Do they teach you how to kill with that in the USMC?

    The strain in the marriage was Peterson’s predilection for arranging to meet rent boys online. He liked his own fireplace poked, it seems.

    Peterson’s defenders claimed she was attacked by an owl. The only Owls that come to mind are Bill Cosby (Temple, 1971) and Steve Sailer (Rice, 1980).

  113. Jack D says:
    @MEH 0910

    On the one hand, someone who grew up in Newark might know someone who knows someone who could arrange an unfortunate accident.

    On the other hand, Martinson was a psycho nut job and such people often need no help to come to a tragic end.

    Roth was for some reason attracted to unsuitable women (and not just shiksa goddesses – Claire Bloom is Jewish). It’s also sad and emblematic of our age that Roth left no children – lots of obsessing about sex but the sex had nothing to do with the biological purpose of sex. That he is remembered for writing about Onanism is, I suppose, fitting.

  114. @PV van der Byl

    Bill Laimbeer, longtime center for the Detroit Pistons, was less famous for saying “I am the only guy in the NBA who knows who his father is” This was almost literally true.

  115. Flip says:
    @BB753

    I was on Maui once and made the drive to Hana to see Lindbergh’s grave. Very simple and low key in a little church there.

    The news about him having subsequent children by two sisters in Germany and Switzerland was interesting. His grandfather in Sweden had a checkered family/sexual life as well.

  116. Jack John says:
    @Tyrion 2

    What an excellent and thought provoking comment,thank you

  117. Simon says:
    @anon

    Casting choices ARE interesting, if you’re a movie buff.

    P.S. Are you always this obnoxious, or is it only online?

  118. Herzog says:
    @Steve Sailer

    Steve, you’re being a voice of reason, as so often.

    Proust only ever wrote about the aristocrats and salons of Paris. Would anybody hold that against him? Would anybody criticize a Vietnamese author for writing about Vietnamese instead of Afghans? Does anybody complain that Tom Wolfe did NOT write much about American Jews, but rather about the spheres he was familiar with? Good writers write, and should write, about what they know most intimately.

    It’s not one’s subject that makes one a great or lesser writer, but the way he (or, yes, she) deals with it, approaches it, treats it, writes about it. Just as science is not constituted by its object, but by the application of scientific methods in the analysis of the object. You may not like spiders, but still they are a deserving object for science. You may not like Jewish sex maniacs, but the detailed exploration of their minds still can be very interesting (and entertaining) — especially as there are also quite a few non-Jewish sex maniacs, making for a large overlap. Equally, aging affects us all.

    I find the animosity against Roth articulated here, and not infrequently by avowed non-readers of his works, rather astonishing.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  119. @Herzog

    Metropolitan high society tends to be inherently pretty interesting of a subject for readers who want to know what the life of the rich is like, so lots of writers who have had something of an in, such as Proust, Wharton, Waugh, etc., have done well off writing about it.

    On the other hand, there is much to be said for writers trying to expand their social range via travel or dedicated reporting or embedding yourself in a different life. Waugh did a lot of travel rather than settling down to write more bestsellers about the Bright Young Things of Mayfair. Orwell tried working in a Parisian restaurant and tried being an English hobo as part of his search for material to write about that wasn’t done to death already.

    Waugh and Orwell were hybrid journalists / novelists, with Waugh tipped more toward novels and Orwell toward journalism. Waugh tried to sell his travels to places like Ethiopia three times: first as travel articles, then as travel books, then as novels. They tended to get better in each evolution.

    Tom Wolfe could have done very well just writing about New York high society, as in Radical Chic. But he liked to go off and report on different worlds as well.

    Other novelists focus on places they know well. In his late in life comeback, Roth wrote a huge amount about mid-Century Newark, NJ where he grew up. He was very good at it. Plus, lots of influential people in America in, say, 2000 came from very similar backgrounds, so Roth’s books were useful in understanding the backgrounds and attitudes of the New Ascendancy.

    • Replies: @Herzog
  120. riches says:
    @Steve Sailer

    Quite a few producers banked on Agatha Christie. And there were a gew remakes.

  121. Anon87 says:

    Having only read Wolfe due to Sailer (and do not regret it at all), can people here recommend A Confederacy of Dunces? Any good??

  122. JohnnyD says:
    @BB753

    “Trump=Lindbergh=Hitler”
    Exactly. Roth will remembered for supposedly foreseeing a fascistic takeover of the United States, when in reality, he should be remembered for daring to portray Jews as flawed human beings.

  123. @Anon87

    Having only read Wolfe due to Sailer (and do not regret it at all), can people here recommend A Confederacy of Dunces? Any good??

    There’s nothing else quite like it, and I’ve found it to be a delight. I’ve read it several times for fun.

    My guess is that if you like Wolfe, you’ll enjoy Dunces.

    • Replies: @Anon87
  124. Herzog says:
    @Steve Sailer

    Steve,

    I wouldn’t dream of holding it against any writer if in his literary creations he attempts to transcend his milieu of origin and most intimate aquaintance. Rather, I would wish him or her lots of success, and hope that greater topical breadth doesn’t come at the expense of depth of understanding and treatment.

    But temperaments are different, and if a writer by and large sticks to his original guns, I’m fine with that too. Le style c’est l’homme, as they say. A boorish individual will remain boorish even if he surrounds himself with gold. By contrast, a great artist can (not: must) also work masterpieces within a limited ambiance.

  125. Anonymous[343] • Disclaimer says:


    I find the animosity against Roth articulated here, and not infrequently by avowed non-readers of his works, rather astonishing.

    Please. Roth was the literary version of Lenny Bruce. Both were mediocrities who earned massive echo chamber bonus points for mocking, defaming, denigrating goys and goy culture. That was/is the real secret of their success.

    This dovetails with Netanyahu’s famous comment “My people know how to hate.”

    How about Johnny Gentile doing an interview where he talks about getting his dick into lots of Jewish girls but what he really was thinking about was getting his dick into their background?

    How does that sound to you?

    Why don’t we take the output from these two geniuses Roth & Bruce and we simply swap the Jew and Goy labels without changing anything else. Please. Please be honest and admit the author would sound like a sick Nazi.

  126. Anon87 says:
    @The Last Real Calvinist

    Thank you. Time to get a copy….

  127. Dissident says:
    @Janus

    Also, Steve, have you ever considered keeping some of your less time-sensitive posts stored away so that you could have something to post when you are either taking a well-deserved rest or working on a longer piece. Occasionally we’ll go days with no new posts, and then at other times they’ll hit rapid-fire. When you post really quickly, some of them tend to get less attention than they might otherwise merit.

    Good points.

  128. Ian M. says:
    @Tyrion 2

    I have sometimes wondered if the ultra-realism that is made possible by modern art forms, in particular the novel and film, makes us less able to appreciate other art forms with a more venerable tradition. Should someone today try to write an epic poem, would anyone even care to read it? Listening to poetry used to be a common pastime in the 19th century among even the lower classes (Longfellow was very popular in America). I can’t imagine anyone doing that today except for academics in obscure fields and lesbian feminists.

    Another potential drawback to the novel is that because of its emphasis on the individual subjectivity and with creating dramatic tension, it seems prone to sentimentality.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  129. Ian M. says:
    @Jack D

    Why?

    What about authors like Hugo and Dickens? Someone else mentioned Austen.

    All of these are considered great novelists, and their novels have been made into successful movies. Part of Dickens’s and Austen’s genius was their vivid and comic characters, which can often translate onto screen quite well.

  130. Ian M. says:
    @Intelligent Dasein

    They have, by and large, been a pretty much uninterrupted congeries of depressing hacks ever since Melville. … I’m talking about those literators who make it onto the lists of American Greats and who are force-fed to English students throughout the length and breadth of the land. Salinger, Updike, Hemingway, Faulkner, O’Conner—I woudn’t touch those books again if you paid me.

    I’m mostly in agreement. I’ve not read Faulkner or O’Conner, but I’m not impressed by Salinger and Hemingway. Catcher in the Rye was the phoniest book I’ve ever read. When asked once why I didn’t care for Hemingway, I responded with: “He’s boring”, to which my interlocutor replied: “That’s a very Hemingwayesque way of putting it.” (Touche).

    But I do like Mark Twain and Henry James. Would you regard these two as depressing hacks also?

    • Replies: @Intelligent Dasein
  131. @Ian M.

    A lot of old fiction and poetry writing was devoted to conjuring up images in people’s minds. Now we have lots and lots of images instantly available.

    • Agree: Tyrion 2
  132. Ian M. says:
    @middle aged vet . . .

    Derbyshire is a great prose stylist.

  133. Ian M. says:
    @Steve Sailer

    I always thought that Michael Crichton’s novels should have been more adaptable to the screen than they were. Besides Jurassic Park and maybe The Great Train Robbery, they seem mostly to have been flops.

    Dickens might be another one to consider. A number of successful BBC adaptations and some Hollywood ones too.

  134. @Ian M.

    But I do like Mark Twain and Henry James. Would you regard these two as depressing hacks also?

    I have nothing bad to say about Mark Twain. He certainly was no hack, but I don’t read him because I personally don’t care for him. I’m not a fan of his style of folksy homiletics. Reading Twain would bore me to tears, but I don’t mean that as an indictment of the man or his work.

    I’ve actually never read any Henry James, which is something I should probably remedy someday.

    And to Anon who asked me about Melville, that is a pretty interesting subject in its own right. If you pick up any paperback copy of Moby-Dick, the publisher’s blurb on the back cover will invariably mention something about “Melville’s fascinating voyage into the dark side of human psychology.” They always use the phrase “human psychology” as if it were some kind of grammatically necessary stipulation when talking about MD. I believe this detracts from Melville’s work, for that is precisely what it is not. There is no psychology in Moby-Dick; there is scarcely even very much of a plot. The book is a highly episodic series of sketches that reveal a very deep practical knowledge of whaling and sea-voyaging combined with a considerable talent for rumination. Melville clearly was a sensitive man who was impacted mightily by his experiences, who chewed them for a long while, and then regurgitated them in a playful, mellifluous style. A psychologist he was not.

    I think one of the best American writers of recent times, believe it or not, was Carl Sagan. I don’t agree with him about much, but enjoyed his books immensely.

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