After reading that you’re ‘done’ writing.
(Photo: Philip Roth in 2010. Credit: Nancy Crampton / Handou)
Like you, I grew up basting in the trauma, neuroses and antibiotic chicken soup of our unstoppable people, one of the chosen ones, always probing, pushing, head-scratching, shirt rending- chosen for what? What am I supposed to do? Why me, as opposed to, say, a non-Jew?
I found the answer pouring over the thousands of pages of the 31 books of your New (Jersey) Testament. For better and for worse, to be Jewish is to wander the desert of eternal questions in orthotic sandals, slathered in sunscreen, expecting the worst and striving to be the best. Through a complex but easy-to-read mind-blow of compassion and critique- you strip us down; proud-nosed, insatiable horn-dogs on an exhaustive but infinitely entertaining search for meaning in all this chaos, as we survive and often thrive, no matter what.
We Jews seek to overcome enduring insecurity and find a cure for the pain of life, the terror of death and the anxiety and depression that rushes through the bloody history in our veins, engulfing us with such crazy fear that we build walls to protect ourselves, when there is no protection.
Thank you, Philip Roth, with love and squalor. Your literature helps save and redeem us all. I think of Nemesis, your latest and last master-work. Set in a Newark Jewish community during the polio epidemic in 1944, it is filled with so much despair, tenderness and hope, it led me deeper into my life, deeper into love. I am grateful beyond words.
A classic never calls it a day, it stands the test of time. You may think you’re ‘done’, but there is no end.
“Running with the javelin aloft, stretching his throwing arm back behind his body, bringing the throwing arm through to release the javelin high over his shoulder – and releasing it then like an explosion – he seemed to us invincible.” (Final sentence, ‘Nemesis’ by Philip Roth, 2010, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
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