Roth’s Yahrzeit

Edited by Len Gutkin

Introduction: Roth’s Yahrzeit

Len Gutkin

Rough: A Journey into the Drafts of Portnoy’s Complaint

Scott Saul

Philip Roth’s Modest Phase

Mark McGurl

Philip Roth and the Fantasies of Authorship

Len Gutkin

The Double’s Allegiance: Philip Roth and the Question of Zion

Ari Brostoff


Philip Roth's death, last May, at the age of 85, shouldn't have come as a surprise after all, he was very old! but it did. His last novel, Nemesis, had been published in 2010; in 2012, he announced his retirement from writing. Personally I hadn't, and still haven't, read any of the novels from what Mark, in his essay here, calls Roth's "modest phase" (2006-2010) my last Roth novel was The Plot Against America, in 2004. But (like Ari and, I suspect, Mark and Scott as well) I grew up on Roth, and contemporary American literature can seem as hard to imagine without him as Florence without the Duomo.

For scholars of the post-45 American novel, Roth's death means: Your literature is history now, as surely as if you studied modernism or the Victorian novel. There are, of course, major figures from Roth's generation left: Toni Morrison, Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon. But E.M. Forster was still alive in 1970. Modernism wasn't.

In different ways, each of these essays confronts the passing into history of the period "post-45." Scott begins in the archive where every once-contemporary literature ends up, if it's lucky. Mark reads Roth's humbled late style against Roth's worry that the novel itself is in its terminal stages. My own contribution was motivated by my sense that a certain powerful interpretive protocol the diligent separation of author from narrator, which had normative force across the post-45 period both in and outside of the academy has begun to break down. And Ari’s essay looks at Operation Shylock through the lens of another plausible marker of the end of the "post-45" consensus: the possibility, embodied by Ilhan Omar, for a new, more just American role in Israel-Palestine.

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