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John Updike: my distant friend


English writers
Philip Roth Writer
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I've read... I read 19th century English literature when I was a student and read quite a bit of it, and... and poetry.  And there's some 20th century English writers that have meant a great deal to me.  I guess, Virginia Woolf is the strongest.  I... I think that just two books though.  I can't read the... I tried to read the others, I... I can't.  But the two books are... are masterpieces.  The masterpiece seems to me to be Mrs Dalloway, and very close to that is, of course, To the Lighthouse.  I... I couldn't get anything out of an English writer as a writer.  I can only get something out of an American writer as a writer.  I can be stirred up by an American writer and become inspired to do what I do, you know.  I've never found myself getting a... a jolt from an English writer, except perhaps Anthony Burgess.  I thought Burgess was very good.  And... and Virginia Woolf.  But my... my heart is here, and my sympathies are here, and my capacity to absorb is... is from books that are written here. 

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: Mrs Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf, Anthony Burgess

Duration: 1 minute, 34 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2011

Date story went live: 18 March 2013