The news today is sad. Philip Roth has passed away. He was one of the last writers who still was at the center of US culture (at least as seen from the East Coast). While it isn't the be-all and end-all of awards, Roth will never be able to win the Nobel Prize in literature (nor did John Updike, another very deserving candidate). Not to go on an anti-Nobel rant, but I really did lose complete respect for the award and certainly the committee when they gave the award to Bob Dylan, which I thought was completely inane.
Here is a solid obit, cribbed from the NY Times. I agree with how they have placed Roth at the center of two trios -- Bellow, Updike and Roth (as powerful observers of American life -- from a male, middle class perspective)* and then Bellow, Malamud and Roth (as Jewish American writers).
Of all these writers, I've read the most Bellow (essentially all the novels and novellas aside from Ravelstein) and the least Updike -- essentially nothing, though this summer/fall, I'll finally be tackling the Rabbit novels. I think I've hit 50% of Malamud's novels and stories, though I'll have to do a tally soon.
With Roth, I've read 6 of his novels, but he wrote so many, that it is only a relatively small percentage. I had the David Kepesh novels on my reading list, and I should get to them by June, so I don't feel I need to make any adjustment there. I will more seriously consider rereading Zuckerman Bound later in the year (it was much lower on the list) and then probably add to that The Counterlife and Exit Ghost. I don't think I'll be reading the other novels loosely in the Zuckerman canon any time soon.
Right now, I am running late, but in the next post, I'll go ahead and make lists of Roth, Updike, Malamud, etc. so I can track them in one place.
* Perhaps long ago, Norman Mailer would have been squeezed in as a fourth, but his career sort of went off the rails. It doesn't seem as though John O'Hara has as much staying power as Bellow, Updike or Roth, but several of his novels and short stories are worth a closer look. It's certainly possible that the LOA volume of O'Hara's stories will bring him back into circulation.