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On love

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Anger and indignation
Philip Roth Writer
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Yeah, there are a certain number of angry people in... in my books, beginning really with Lucy Nelson in When She Was Good and going up to, I don't know what  I guess in The Human Stain, Coleman Silk is enraged by what's been done to him, but that isn't the whole of The Human Stain. But, I guess, I can write about anger. Anger, rage, outrage excites my verbal energy, just as lust excites Nabokov's verbal energy in Lolita.

You're not feeling the emotions the characters are feeling when you're writing about them. That's the last thing you're feeling. So I... when I'm writing about Lucy Nelson being angry or Ira Ringold in I Married a Communist, being... who's a very angry guy, being angry. While I'm writing, I'm not angry. It doesn't work that way. I'm excited by what I can do with his anger. When Portnoy was angry, I was happy. And I remember it. I thought, yippee, here we go. Let him go, let him do it. So, I'm able, I think, to have some success in writing about anger. When Portnoy's feeling lust in Portnoy's Complaint, I'm not feeling lust, I'm writing, I'm finding the sentences. I have too much to do to be lustful too, you know. So, I've also written about other... other emotions, and... I would hope

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: When She Was Good, The Human Stain, Portnoy's Complaint, Lucy Nelson, Portnoy

Duration: 3 minutes, 36 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2011

Date story went live: 18 March 2013