Philip Roth

This is an archive broadcast from May 12, 2006.

Philip Roth [David Miller]

This Memorial Day weekend we’re talking with Philip Roth about everything. It’s a free-range conversation that gets us beyond the books and into the mind, heart and soul of the Tolstoy of our times. In his latest work, Everyman, the hero bids farewell to vigor, lust and life but Roth himself remains as vital and persistent a writer as ever. With nearly 30 books under his belt, Roth’s approach to writing hasn’t changed:

If I can emerge from my studio with a page, I’m not downhearted. If I emerge with less, I’m pretty frustrated. If I emerge with nothing, then I want to slit my throat. I haven’t yet, but sometimes you can’t go any further. It’s not writer’s block, that’s not the right phrase to describe it — it’s that you are not penetrating the material in a way that will release whatever is strongest in you.

Philip Roth on Open Source

In Everyman, Roth paraphrases artist Chuck Close, “Amateurs look for inspiration; the rest of us just get up and go to work.” Part of the secret Roth offered, in an aside, may be his birth year 1933, the early depression. He’s conscious of entering the world at virtually the same moment with prolific writers he still admires: Joyce Carol Oates, John Updike and Reynolds Price. We dropped many other names along the way: David Riesman, Sarah Vaughan, Norman Mailer, James Baldwin, the several Henrys (Miller, James, Aaron, and Kissinger) and, yes, Tolstoy.

Don’t miss this—it is an hour to remember.

Update, 5/15/06, 11:25pm

On our comment thread Allison writes “I’m confused. Did you already have the conversation with him?” Yes, we did. Earlier this month Roth graciously invited us into his home, in rural Connecticut. We recorded over two hours of remarkable tape that we are now editing for Memorial Day.

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