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How I met Saul Bellow


William Faulkner
Philip Roth Writer
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And then the... the powerhouse of powerhouses is, of course, Faulkner.  And there's a series of books he wrote between, I think, 1929 and 1932, something like that, which include As I Lay Dying, which to my mind may be the best book of the first 50 years of the 20th century, in literature, American literature.  It's... it's a remarkable book, it's... it's horrifying, it's funny, it's... it's ingenious, and Faulkner is... can be difficult.  That's not... that's not a particularly difficult book, but he can be very difficult, he is in say, Absalom, Absalom!.  So what you do when you read those difficult books is you get as much as you can get.  And don't worry about the rest.  Just don't be impatient when you're reading.  But they... they are hard, I know from teaching them to... to students.  But he's a visionary, he's a chronicler, both at the same time.  And he's a great fountain of language.  He is... Faulkner is his fountain and Bellow is his fountain and... and Thomas Wolfe is his fountain.  They all have different fountains and then there's someone like Dreiser who doesn't have a... a fountain of language, who sort of clunks along, you know, but these stories that he... he tells are terrifically powerful and for me the great powerhouse of a book is American Tragedy

The fame of the American writer Philip Roth (1933-2018) rested on the frank explorations of Jewish-American life he portrayed in his novels. There is a strong autobiographical element in much of what he wrote, alongside social commentary and political satire. Despite often polarising critics with his frequently explicit accounts of his male protagonists' sexual doings, Roth 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: As I lay Dying, William Faulkner, Saul Bellow, Thomas Wolfe

Duration: 1 minute, 38 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2011

Date story went live: 18 March 2013