Monday, March 10, 2014

Mr. Roth does not believe in God, hasn't a religious bone in his body, he says.  Interesting.

And people no longer have the antennae for serious fiction, too many screens, he says.

I look at him, and celebrate him, for someone who cannot help but to write.  That human trait sticks with me, in a late night scan of Portnoy's Complaint--I'd never really read it that deeply before--and the sketch of 'pulling it out' on the bus as the bus rises up the Pulaski Skyway, seated next to a sleeping shiksa in a tartan skirt.  I see some long regal bloodline that goes back, and so it's hard for me to not see him in a religious context.  Wine, the regal beverage, celebrated in the Passover (the passing over of God's destruction upon the Egyptians), the holy text, expanded upon in intricacies to touch the human condition…  Roth wouldn't want to be canonized.  Jewish tradition doesn't do that so much, being about, as a good friend explained to me the other night at the end of a jazz night at The Dying Gaul, that the holy texts are the interpretations of rabbis, each as good as their own argument (as opposed to the Catholic stamp of authority, the opposite of healthy legal arguments, the Catholics all about hierarchy.)  "It's not about this 'personal salvation' business, but about realizing we have to treat others like we were once ourselves, strangers wandering in a foreign land, hungry, and fed by the grace of God," met friend, a New York Jew who goes down to New Orleans to do legal stuff on behalf of the EPA.  {something like that, his story of how Passover is celebrated}   I can't keep my hands off writing, nor away from wine, it seems, nor about a basically reverent exploration of why people put things into words, even if the subject of such things are beyond them.

And so there is, we might say, thank god, an instinct within us to be protective of writers, even as we all toil under the "Protestant Work Ethic," conceiving work as real science, factories, production, economic exchange.  In the restaurant business, we exchange hospitality for regular customers…

Hitler didn't live long enough to burn Portnoy's Complaint and the rest of Mr. Roth, didn't get to be The Grand Inquisitor holding Philip Roth in a cell for questioning, and certainly, Roth would have represented almost the ideal of "degenerate art" of the kind the Nazis wanted to be so vigilant against, in order to protect God, decency, young maidens, youths in general, the 'fatherland.'  All Quiet on the Western Front survived, Don Quixote survived, and so did the Talmud. Therein, lies some form of victory.

Humanity is built on a kind of monkey who would share through words.

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