Michael Kimmage: Philip Roth as Phenomenon of the American SpiritRoundup: Pop Culture & the Arts ... Movies, Documentaries and Museum Exhibits
tags: PBS, Michael Kimmage, Philip Roth, American Masters
n June 1880, Fyodor Dostoevsky spoke before a monument to Alexander Pushkin, newly erected in Moscow, proclaiming Pushkin a “unique phenomenon of the Russian spirit.” To Dostoevsky at least, Pushkin’s monumental meaning was transparent. It was his national genius: “No single Russian writer, before or after him, ever associated himself so intimately and fraternally with his people as Pushkin.”
Unlike Russians, Americans rarely build statues to their writers. American writers are most consistently remembered as local heroes: Edgar Allan Poe obliquely commemorated in Baltimore’s football team or Ernest Hemingway honored as the patron saint of Key West. For all its statues, Washington, D.C. has very few that are literary. One of the limited ways to secure a spot in national memory is for a writer to be featured in American Masters, a PBS series that focuses on great artists. This accolade has just been awarded to Philip Roth, and “Philip Roth: Unmasked,” has all the attributes of a monument, though the question remains: A monument to what?1
It’s easier to answer in the negative. No monument can be built to Roth the Jewish-American writer, since there is no such writer. Roth does not write “in Jewish,” as he comically confesses in the documentary. The Jewish-American label was constructed by others and applied to him artificially, forcing him into a box with Saul Bellow and Bernard Malamud when the literary genealogy is vastly more complicated....
comments powered by Disqus
- Polish prime minister seeks dialogue with Israel on 'difficult history'
- Writer Makes the Case for Impeaching Clarence Thomas
- Finding a Lock of George Washington’s Hair, and a Link to American History
- How Does Trump Stack Up Against the Best — and Worst — Presidents?
- Russia Isn’t the Only One Meddling in Elections. We Do It, Too.
- Dartmouth’s Randall Balmer: Under Trump, America's religious right is rewriting its code of ethics
- Was This Technology historian plagiarized? Sure seems like she was.
- Meet the new authorized historian of Britain's communications intelligence agency
- Lerone Bennett Jr., journalist and historian of African American life, dies at 89
- Right after the Civil War, says Stanford's Richard White, Americans were really hopeful, then reality hit