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Portnoy’s Complaint: my mother’s question


Portnoy’s Complaint: sending my parents on a cruise
Philip Roth Writer
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Two or three months later, I now had some money and my parents loved cruises so I... I sent them on a cruise. I thought it was good to get them out of the United States anyway. And here's what happened on the cruise. My father was… my father was tremendously gregarious, would meet people and start talking to them. And when he made a little circle of friends he said to them, 'How would you like a copy… an autographed copy of my son's book?' Poor people stuck there on a cruise, they can't get off the ship. So they said yes they… that's the last thing they needed was a book, but. So, he went down to his cabin and he brought with him about a dozen copies of Portnoy's Complaint and he opened them up and he autographed it by saying from Herman Roth… from Philip Roth's father, Herman. And this is the book that he gave to them.

So that's how they manage. I don't... I don't know what suffering they suffered. They may well have been hurt by things in the book, but they weren't... they weren't those people. My father was hardly like that and my mother was hardly like that so. But they never… they never were aggrieved as a result.

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: USA, Portnoy's Complaint, Herman Roth

Duration: 1 minute, 25 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2011

Date story went live: 18 March 2013