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Adolescence and my family


How my mother taught me to type
Philip Roth Writer
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My father succeeded… in life and his business. He was promoted by the Metropolitan, the life insurance company until he made a very good near the end of his life and retired on a very good pension. He died at the age of 88 in 1989.

My mother was comme il faut. She was… she took pleasure in doing the proper thing and it was her style. She was… well spoken. My father wasn't ill spoken, but my mother was the one who was well spoken and she had the social graces and she was a very loving mother. She… she taught me how to type when I was a boy. I must have been 10, and she had been a secretary in a law office before she got married and she was an excellent typist and stenographer. And she… she luckily, blessedly taught me to type and I was a kid and I loved learning it from her – she had a typewriter – and I loved learning it from her. It was easy to learn and I could type. But mostly she was there as a… as a mother. She was very active in school affairs, she was president of the, what's called the Parent-Teachers Association for several years and so she knew all my teachers, which excited me. And she had many women friends and she… she had a wonderful life, I think, until the boys – my brother and I – went away, and then she was quite bereft

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: Metropolitan Life Insurance Company

Duration: 2 minutes, 38 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2011

Date story went live: 18 March 2013