The Work of Philip Roth

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Unable to attend, Philip Roth and his work was analyzed and discussed by a panel of four women on Oct. 5 as part of the Evening Reading Series.

Pulitzer Prize winning author Philip Roth has written more than thirty books, including “Goodbye Columbus,” “My Life as a Man” and “American Pastoral.”

The panel discussing his work included Tufts University professor Janis Bellow, bestselling author and literary critic

Susan Jacoby, National Jewish Book award winning author Rebecca Newberger Goldstein and Claudia Roth Pierpont, the author of a recent biography of Roth titled, “Roth Unbound: A Writer and His Books.”

“Roth’s writing is so unique because he deals with human freedom. He deals with the human freedom as it relates to the male and female. Some of the themes in his writing involve remaking ourselves. Roth’s work has produced some amazing characters who possess such great audacity,” Pierpont said.

Although Roth is a widely celebrated author, he has faced numerous criticisms including claims of misogyny. The panel of women discussed how some of them felt criticized for coming to speak in the event about the author.

“Women would write to me and say, ‘How could you?’” Goldstein said.

Jacoby joked that the reason the panel comprised of women was no coincidence.

“Roth wanted a panel of all women so he could prove to others that he doesn’t hate women,” Jacoby jokingly said.

“I think that Roth has some great female characters. He wrote a novel called ‘The Breast.’ The breast was seen as a sexual object. [The novel] was a representation of the struggle of women also being seen as sexual objects. A misogynist would not write about this topic,” Jacoby said.

Goldstein said that Roth’s work comprised of a theme of what it means to be a body.

“There is this agony yet also triumph of sex as we deal with the predicament that we are material bodies. These are deep themes that Roth explores and I don’t understand the charge of misogyny,” Goldstein said .

Jacoby has great respect for Roth as she describes him as a realist.

“You can tell that he’s in love with the work. Roth insists on the real which is ugly and incoherent but all that we’ve got,” Jacoby said.

One of Mr. Roth’s most popular work is “Ghost Writer.” In the novel, Roth brings Anne Frank to life as a survivor of the Holocaust.

“There’s the theme of identity in Roth’s work that we’re given but it has this exhilaration. He plays with the life of imagination,” Goldstein said.

Peter Goldfine, a member of the audience, was glad to have shown up in spite of the fact Roth was unable to attend.

“I thought that the panel was very good. They covered a variety of topics, it was a great interplay of speakers which made it very interesting,” Goldfine said.

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