Posts Tagged: philip roth Results 3
It’s struck me lately that the American writer perhaps most deeply associated with White Male Writer-ness is one who made his name writing fiction about identity. Google “Philip Roth” and “white male” and you find an endless stream of essays that offer up Roth as a prime example of the white male literary novelist. As a prime example, that is, of the demographic of writers whose work gets the noble (if not Nobel) literary treatment, while any writer who isn’t a white dude gets dismissed as unimportant or merely political, and certainly not universal.
I loved Lenore Skenazy’s recent essay about how immersion among gentiles can make even the most secular Jew feel suddenly Jewish — and conversely, how being in a very Jewish environment can make us feel, well, not Jewish.
This weekend, The New York Times Book Review, which has a real knack for hiring known anti-feminists as writers, featured Katie “Rape, shmape” Roiphe’s essay on literary sex in the works of Great Male writers. The essay bemoans the supposed sissiness of today’s male novelists, such as Michael Chabon, Jonathan Franzen, David Foster Wallace and company — compared with their predecessors, the Updikes, Roths, Mailers and Bellows, who featured coupling in vivid details throughout their works.
Many of these writers are Jewish, and the sexual angst they describe is a particularly Jewish American male variety. I haven’t read all the works Roiphe quotes, but I found the timing of her piece amusing. I’ve just read my first Chabon novel and had planned to write a Sisterhood post about how I preferred Chabon’s gentler, more humanistic (and less hetero-normative) version of Jewish manhood to Roth’s out-and-out misogyny. Not quite the same reaction as Roiphe’s. Roiphe sprinkles the terms “virile” and “postfeminist” in opposition to one another throughout her piece, implying that feminism killed off virility. She seems to believe that male writers who wonder what women think while in bed, or while flipping the page, are effectively castrated. Sigh.