Philip Roth: "It’s as Though He’s Sitting on Your Face"

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
May 18 2011 10:04 AM

Philip Roth: "It’s as Though He’s Sitting on Your Face"

It wasannounced today that Philip Roth has beenawarded the fourth Man Booker International Prize , a major award granted every other year to a living author who either writes in Englishor whose work is widely available in translation. But if you expected this to be a genteel celebration of one man's long, productive life in letters, think again.


Though thepanel had three members, the decision to award Roth the £60,000 prize was really made bytwo people, chair RickGekoski , an academic and rare-book dealer, and novelist Justin Cartwright .The third judge, Carmen Callil author and head of the feministpublishing house Virago withdrew from the panel in protest over the decision to grant Roth theaward. And how! The Guardian quotesher today as saying , "he goes on and on and on about the same subject inalmost every single book. It's as though he's sitting on your face and youcan't breathe." She goes on to say:

I don't rate him as a writer at all. Imade it clear that I wouldn't have put him on the longlist, so I was amazedwhen he stayed there. He was the only one I didn't admire-all the others werefine ... Roth goes to the core of their [Cartwright and Gekoski's] beings. But hecertainly doesn't go to the core of mine ... Emperor's clothes: in 20 years'time will anyone read him?

Callil willexpand her arguments in a column this Saturday in the GuardianReview , so Roth fans have a few days to rehearse their rebuttals

Slate would probably argue that we'll still be reading Roth in 20 years' time after all, we'vecovered nearly every new work of his since we were founded in 1996. You can checkout our Roth archives here:

MichaelGorra on 2010's Nemesis

JonathanRosen on 2008's Indignation

Stephen Metcalfon 2007's Exit Ghost  

Stephen Metcalfon 2006's Everyman (Metcalf, MeghanO'Rourke, and Katie Roiphe also discussed Everyman in our audio book clubpodcast )

JudithShulevitz and Nicholas Lemann on 2004's The Plot Against America ; David Greenberg on The Plot Against America

Alex Abramovich, in 2001, on whether Woody Allen and Philip Roth wereseparated at birth

JudithShulevitz and Brent Staples on 2000's The Human Stain

KathaPollitt and Philip Weiss on 1998's I Married a Communist

Paul Bermanon 1997's American Pastoral

. For more culture coverage, like 
 on Facebook.


Nina Shen Rastogi is a writer and editor, and is also the vice president for content at Figment.


The World

The Budget Disaster that Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

How Movies Like Contagion and Outbreak Distort Our Response to Real Epidemics

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

Everything You Should Know About Today’s Eclipse

An Unscientific Ranking of Really, Really Old German Beers


Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.


The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Can Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu Pull Off One More Louisiana Miracle?

  News & Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
Oct. 23 2014 11:51 AM It Seems No One Is Rich or Happy: I Looked
The Eye
Oct. 23 2014 12:48 PM Track Your Bag and Charge Your Phone With This Carry-On Smart Suitcase
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 12:01 PM Who Is Constantine, and Should You Watch His New Show?
Oct. 23 2014 11:45 AM The United States of Reddit  How social media is redrawing our borders. 
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.