Published: Sat, May 26, 2018
Entertaiment | By Minnie Bishop

Philip Roth Once Torched Donald Trump In The Most Literary Way

Philip Roth Once Torched Donald Trump In The Most Literary Way

Philip Roth, whose raucous, playful, elegant and often outrageous novels about Jewish life and sex and death and betrayal made him one of the country's greatest novelists, has died at age 85.

His death was confirmed by his literary agent, Andrew Wylie, who said Roth died Tuesday night of congestive heart failure.

Roth, who was now living in Manhattan and CT at the time of his death, was arguably the most significant New Jersey-born novelist of the 20th Century and many of his works are considered American classics.

His first collection of short stories, Goodbye, Columbus (1959), though well received (it won the author his first National Book Award in 1960), was criticized by several powerful rabbis for its portrayal of Jews as morally flawed and materialistic.

But with women often portrayed as little more than objects amid the lustful agonising of privileged heterosexual men, Roth's work was frequently labelled misogynistic.

In The Plot Against America, Roth explores a political alternative history - one in which Franklin D Roosevelt is defeated by "America first" candidate Charles Lindbergh in the 1940 United States election, resulting in growing anti-Semitism and the persecution of the author's Jewish-American family.

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For many, Mr. Roth would be inextricably linked to one of the great comic, sexually charged novels of recent memory, 1969's "Portnoy's Complaint", in which the lead character appears nearly overwhelmed with lust.

Roth was born in Newark, N.J. and attended Rutgers University and later transferred to Bucknell University. "Irreverent, provocative, sexy, and both a celebration and a slight indictment of middle-class Jewish identity in postwar America".

Former president Barack Obama also awarded Roth with the National Humanities Medal in 2010. "The struggle with writing is done", said a note he taped to his computer. Roth's books have been popular with filmmakers: His 2000 book The Human Stain was adapted just three years later into a Robert Benton film starring Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman; 2008's Penelope Cruz and Ben Kingsley vehicle Elegy was an adaptation of Roth's 2001 novel The Dying Animal; the Al Pacino-Greta Gerwig movie The Humbling was based on Roth's 2009 book of the same name and 2016's Indignation pulled its story from Roth's 2008 novel. "As for how Trump threatens us, I would say that, like the anxious and fear-ridden families in my book, what is most terrifying is that he makes any and everything possible, including, of course, the nuclear catastrophe", he said.

In an email exchange with The New Yorker, Roth said Lindbergh was a pilot "who had displayed tremendous physical courage and aeronautical genius. I no longer feel this dedication to write what I have experienced my whole life". The couple divorced in 1995 and Bloom wrote a memoir called "Leaving the Doll's House" where she depicted him as a misogynist and control freak.

In a New York Times interview in 2018, Roth reflected on his 50-plus years as a writer, describing it as: "Exhilaration and groaning".

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