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William Faulkner

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Henry Miller
Philip Roth Writer
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The other writer who I... who I read in no school – you had to come upon this writer yourself – that was Henry Miller.  To begin with, he couldn't be published in America.  I believe I read... read him in editions I bought in Paris in my 20s by Olympia Press, I... I think that may have been...  His... his greatest book is a book called [The] Tropic of Cancer.  It's... it's a great book about sex and the body and the burdens of sex and the body and the delights as well.  But it's Henry Miller, I think, who educated me about letting the repellent in, let the repellent into the fiction.  Let the repellent into literature.  Let literature contemplate the repellent.  Not the clergymen and not the high school principal, but let... let literature contemplate the repellent.  And that's what he does in that work... in that book.  He does it to a lesser degree in a Tropic of Capricorn.  And then he wrote some crap, too.  But everybody writes some crap, so that's beside the point.  You... in a lifetime you write 30 books, and five of them are crap.  You didn't try to write crap, you followed a lead and it took you in the wrong direction. 

Born in March 1933, American writer Philip Roth's fame rests on the frank explorations of Jewish-American life he portrays in his novels. There is a strong autobiographical element in much of what he writes, alongside social commentary and political satire. Despite often polarising critics with his frequently explicit accounts of his male protagonists' sexual doings, Roth has received a great many prestigious literary awards which include a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1997, and the 4th Man Booker International Prize in 2011.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, Henry Miller

Duration: 1 minute, 41 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2011

Date story went live: 18 March 2013