Tuesday, January 6, 2015
Catching Up with Philip Roth
Now that I've cut back on the amount of book reviewing I'm doing (a difficult choice to make--a choice demanded by my health), I'm finding some time to catch up with some writers--some prolific writers--whose works I've more or less neglected as the years have passed. I've finally read all of Joyce Carol Oates' novels now, and I'm nearing the Philip Roth finish line, as well.
The first Roth novel I read was When She Was Good (1967), a novel that was in paperback when I found it (where?) and was struck, as I recall, by the little bit of info that ran across the cover: A stunning portrait of the All-American bitch. Another memory of the cover: A close-up of a young woman's face; she appears to have bitten her lower lip, which features a drop of blood.
I could have sworn I still have that Bantam Book ... but I can't find it (okay, I didn't look all that hard). I must have seen it somewhere on one of those rotating wire book stands that used to be in drugstores and grocery stores and wherever. Anyway, I bought that stunning portrait of the All-American bitch and read it, as I recall, at the home of my parents, who were living at the time in Des Moines, Iowa, where they both adorned the faculty of Drake University.
I don't remember a lot about the story (hey, it was nearly fifty years ago!), but I think it involved a recent high-school grad (male) who was interested in a high-school girl (a cheerleader? the All-American bitch?). Things didn't work out, I don't think.
(I can't stand it: I just ordered a copy of that long-ago paperback: $10.58 from ABE.)
Anyway, I pretty much kept up with Roth's novels/novellas as the years and decades rolled along. But there were other folks to read, as well, papers to grade, lessons to plan, grad school to complete, a son to help rear, miles to go before I slept. And so I found a few weeks ago that there were a handful of Roth novels/novellas I'd never gotten around to.
As I posted here back on December 18, I've got a number of original publishers' copies of his books--but not all. The rest I have in Library of America editions (Joyce and I have bought them all--since the beginning of LOA). (Here's a link to that earlier post.) And so in the past month I've read ...
... okay this is odd: Going to the Roth shelf just now to check the books I've read recently, I found When She Was Good (why hadn't I looked on that shelf before?). And here's a picture of that cover I'd remembered--and remembered not too inaccurately. (The photo shows only her mouth; and the all in all-American is not capitalized.)
Oh, and I just cancelled that (rash) book order, too.
The question now is: Am I going to re-read that novel?
TO BE CONTINUED ...