Friday, October 08, 2004

Roth's latest

Can't wait to get my hands on Philip Roth's latest, The Plot Against America. Have taken to loitering about the Midland’s store and was all but bodily thrown out last evening. I feel like those Star Wars nerds who camp for weeks outside a cinema hall to be the first to get tickets for the latest film. Never mind.

The feeling of well-being that comes from the knowledge that there's a new Roth book out there waiting to be devoured is enormous. It's remarkable how much the man has grown in stature at an age when most writers stop bothering to dust off their typewriters/computers. By the time he turned 60 in 1993, he had already done enough to seal his position as one of America's greatest writers (despite Martin Amis’s lament that by turing to "serious writing" in the 1970s, Roth had deprived the literary world of one its greatest comic talents). But in the decade since he's produced: Operation Shylock, Sabbath's Theatre, American Pastoral, I Married a Communist and The Human Stain. Off the top of my head, the only artist I can think of who had a late flowering of similar quality is the great Spanish director Luis Bunuel, who first announced his retirement sometime in the early 1960s but then went on to make films like Belle du Jour, Tristana, The Phantom of Liberty, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and That Obscure Object of Desire (the last when he was 77 years old).

Roth’s latest is an alternative history of America in the 20th century, based on the hypothesis that aviation hero (and Nazi supporter) Charles Lindbergh became president of the US in the early 1940s. I can’t wait, I can’t wait, I can’t wait (or did I say that already?)

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