May 18, 2011

Feminist on a panel that chooses winners of the Man Booker International prize withdraws when the panel picks Philip Roth.

The Guardian reports on the sensibilities of Camern Callil:
Dismissing the Pulitzer prize-winning author, Callil said that "he goes on and on and on about the same subject in almost every single book. It's as though he's sitting on your face and you can't breathe"....

"I don't rate him as a writer at all. I made it clear that I wouldn't have put him on the longlist, so I was amazed when he stayed there. He was the only one I didn't admire – all the others were fine... Roth goes to the core of [the other judges'] beings. But he certainly doesn't go to the core of mine ... Emperor's clothes: in 20 years' time will anyone read him?"
He's sitting on your face. Sitting on your face!

59 comments:

madAsHell said...

Yeah....you know I think the "Sitting on the face" is appropriate for Mr. Roth.

Although, I'm not that into guys!

Seven Machos said...

The panel didn't need that slit, anyway.

ricpic said...

...in 20 years time will anyone read him?

American Pastoral without a doubt.

And as for Roth being a one trick pony, the amazing thing about him is how much variety there is in his later work.

But then again, answering Claire Bloom's smear job on him, if only indirectly, was a feminist no no for which there is no forgiveness.

Lincolntf said...

Philip Roth simply isn't acceptable to someone of such refined and enlightened tastes.
Of course every time Maya Angelou writes a new laundry regime update for her domestic staff, it's "Pulitzer, get out of the way!!!!".

tim maguire said...

I tried to read Portnoy's Complaint once. Utter dreck. I'd swear he was sitting at his typewriter with a copy of the DSM-whichever and went down the list, making a chapter for each symptom. I stopped after about three chapters and never bothered with Roth again.

Scott M said...

Emperor's clothes: in 20 years' time will anyone read him?"

They said basically the same thing about Nirvana and Pearl Jam. How old is she? Boomer (looks older maybe). That sort of thing is typical of people convinced THEIR era's literature/music/art was the bee's knees and most since has been crap.

Seven Machos said...

Well, it's true about Pearl Jam.

Scott M said...

Heretic.

Henry said...

Roth, Roth, Roth... Didn't he write Goodbye Columbus? I think my parents had a copy in one of their bookcases.

Frankly, the practice of giving awards to people who win awards is of no interest to me.

DADvocate said...

I read Portnoy's Complaint years ago. Enjoyed it but never ate liver again. It seemed a lot like a bunch of perverted adolescent stories strung together. Not high literature in my book but at least as high as the Vagina Monologues with its good rape.

Coketown said...

Having gone through a fair number of slush piles, let me tell you first-hand: Judges choose stories to flatter their own egos. Their mode of thinking is, "If I could write better, I would write this." If a story is selected, it's because a plurality of judges saw themselves in it.

So I guess I'll shed some crocodile tears for the stuffy feminist who is simply abhorred that Roth was chosen for a prize. She does have a point about is redundancy, though. It's one thing to repeat yourself after 30 novels. It's quite another to repeat yourself for thirty novels.

Trooper York said...

"Sitting on your face!"

I felt the same way about Jenna Jameson's book.

dbp said...

I enjoyed The Human Stain a lot but then tried to read I Married a Communist and it just didn't hold my interest.

MayBee said...

She should simply write an article saying his book has been pulled from publication. That's how you handle these things.

Lucius said...

My first experience with Roth was "The Ghost Writer" so the shadow of "Portnoy's Complaint" or "Goodbye, Columbus" doesn't really deter me.

Roth's done even better in his late-period than Bellow did. He throws more curveballs. Both writers are madly pungent, and guaranteed to piss off feminists for eternity.

Roth will be read. Probably more for the body of work, like Bellow or like Murdoch, than for one 'essential' masterpiece. That's part of the doom of prolific creators. But it doesn't mean that individual works aren't sensational.

The idea that every book on the longlist was "fine" *except* Roth's is pure feminist cant. Idiocy.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Withdrawing because you think a boring person was given the prize is stupid. It's the Man Booker prize for God's sake, of course the winner is going to be boring!

Mike K said...

I just downloaded The Count of Monte Cristo to my Kindle. I read it when I was an early teen and thought it was time to read it again. Aside from a couple of modern adventure fiction writers like WEB Griffin and Tom Clancy, I haven't read a novel less than 60 years old in a long time. Especially the "artsy" ones.

Shouting Thomas said...

The "Sitting on your face" quote raises a lot of questions, doesn't it?

Does this feminist do deep throat?

So few women give a decent blow job.

Richard Dolan said...

The headline, "Feminist on a panel ..." is a bit odd, since her reasons for disliking Roth's work are unrelated to feminism. She finds his work repetitive ("same subject in almost every single book"), and says she doesn't "rate him as a writer at all." Her throw-away, suggesting that no one will read him "in 20 years' time" has serious boomerang potential, since lots of people have been reading everything he's written for 50+ years. In contrast, it's a fair bet that no one will have a clue who Carmen Callil was in 20 minutes from now, let alone 20 years.

It's hard to understand what she means by her screed, other than something intensely negative. She sounds like a gadfly with an ax to grind, and in most cases that ax may well be of the feminist variety. But that doesn't seem to be her problem with Roth, although the "sitting on your face" bit is hard to fathom here.

If she were more of a writer herself, perhaps she could have made clear what her point about Roth was, and why she doesn't think such a prolific (and esteemed) writer isn't "a writer at all." Not that it would make much difference to anyone.

Jeremy said...

Sounds a lot like what the teabaggers here must feel on a daily basis.

Only it's not a famous author's balls.

It's another teabagger.

Jeremy said...

Shouting Thomas - "So few women give a decent blow job."

I guess if there was anyone who would know all about giving good head...it would probably be you.

Ann Althouse said...

"The Count of Monte Cristo"

That was my father's favorite book.

His least favorite was "Return of the Native."

Fred4Pres said...

I have heard of Philip Roth. I have even read his books. And they have made me laugh.

Don't think I ever heard of that panel member. So no loss. How was Roth's taint? I am guessing a push with bruised liver?

Ann Althouse said...

"The headline, "Feminist on a panel ..." is a bit odd, since her reasons for disliking Roth's work are unrelated to feminism."

You mean her stated reasons.

"It's hard to understand what she means by her screed, other than something intensely negative. She sounds like a gadfly with an ax to grind, and in most cases that ax may well be of the feminist variety."

That's my assumption. There were 2 female authors on the short list.

"But that doesn't seem to be her problem with Roth, although the "sitting on your face" bit is hard to fathom here."

That expresses something sexual... something about feeling oppressed by the man in a sexual way.

What's really wrong here is that she was on a panel of judges. She was outvoted. The panel gave a prize to someone, and she appropriated the occasion to shit on the prize. That was a big deal. She made it about her, and she turned the honor into a platform for dishonoring.

Trooper York said...

"The Count of Monte Crisco" was one of Jenna's best movies.

David said...

Callil is a third tier literary light who has written one book on her own, and founded a feminist press in the 1970's. The press failed but it launched her into a undistinguished but apparently reasonably lucrative career in publishing. Recently she discovered the Palestinian cause and is milking that.

ErnieG said...

Mr. Roth has won a major literary prize, and congratulations are in order, but after Portnoy's Complaint I don't think I want to shake his hand.

dbp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
edutcher said...

Maybe Ms Callil wants to sit on his face.

Jeremy said...
Shouting Thomas - "So few women give a decent blow job."

I guess if there was anyone who would know all about giving good head...it would probably be you.


Clearly Jeremy is so obsessed with teabags, he knows nothing about men and women. When a man kisses a lady between her big toes, that's how he gives good head.

dbp said...

One must give Ms. Callil some credit. She could have protested the very name of the prize as sexist.

It would have equally gotten her into the news and would have had the benefit of added humor.

mccullough said...

Philip Roth and Anne Tyler up for the same award.

I used to read Roth, just like I used to read Updike, until I started reading Cormac McCarthy. For some reason, it's impossible for me to go back to Roth or Updike after reading Blood Meridian.

Roth and Updike's obsession with male sexuality is dull. They both should have joined a fraternity in college and gotten over it. They sort of remind me of those guys who write books on war but never fought or were even in the army.

Fred4Pres said...

mccullough, Ouch. That is funny. Especially when you are applying that analogy to them writing on male sexuality.

Still this silly feminist is just looking for attention. I will not even mention her name. Roth is not the greatest writer around, not by a long shot, but he is a hell of a lot better than she ever will be.

Nora said...

I'm not into Philip Roth either, however his books were in print for decades.

Who is Cramen Callil? Who reads here? This tantrum seems like her shot for fame.

Henry said...

Sit on my face and tell me that you love me

vza said...

"Feminist on a panel that choses"

Spelling: Choses?

ET1492 said...

I read Portnoy's Complaint on a friends recommendation and loved it. Very funny. Went on to read The Human Stain and got halfway through American Pastoral before deciding to give up on Roth for good, or at least for a while. It's been over a decade since I've read anything by him.

Maybe someday, when I'm much older, I will be in the mood to read a book about a sad man who can't get erections and has lots of regrets.

So did Roth pay Callil to make a fuss? Now I'm so curious about this suffocating novel of Roth's that I just might buy a copy...

RuyDiaz said...

So few women give a decent blow job.

Shouting Thomas, I don't understand. What's your basis for comparison?

ET1492 said...

mcullough, thanks for your comment.

Updike was on my very long list of important authors I have never read but feel I ought to have.

Perhaps I can scratch him off? Will the audio book of The Witches of Eastwick suffice?

I've already moved McCarthy to my read-everything-this-person-writes-list.

Chip S. said...

So few women give a decent blow job.

Shouting Thomas, I don't understand. What's your basis for comparison?


This is dangerously close to turning into a DSK thread.

Henry said...

Read Fagle's translations of Homer and you don't need McCarthy either.

One thing I really like about Updike is his writing on art. He has a great eye and an unique view. His short stories are suitably well regarded, I suppose. McCarthy is very good, but after reading two of his novels I've never been tempted to open another one. Frankly, novels are annoying. History is much more interesting.

The problem with such things as Pulitzers and Man Bookers is that they demand new work.

This is a golden age of translation. The best poetry written today is translation: Robert Pinsky's translation of Dante; Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf. But no one cares. In the literary arena the modern novel must be stuffed with straw and propped up for yet another award.

Jose_K said...

Portnoy ´s complaint. Proffesor of desire. Human beast

Drudge said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJcmqw13pCU&playnext=1&list=PLE05370097AB027E0

Jose_K said...

The Three muskeeter trilogy is even better than Montechristo
We Were heroes is based on portnoy´s also a good read

Jose_K said...

BTW: the international prize was devised to allow amerericans to compete without threatening the rest of anglosaxons. A previous judge of the prize said that their McEwan , a great writter btw,Coetzeetc would not be able to compete with Roth, De Lilio , Franzen...

Lucius said...

I think most of our verse translations of foreign-language poetry are garbage. There are, of course, tons of them being produced all the time (Aeneids from Fagles, Ahls, that woman on Yale University Press in just the last few years). There's far too much, all of it making special pleas on behalf of the respective translator's exclusive claim to establish the 'vigor' of the original. Which our monolingual 'multicultural' society would know so much about . . .

Most of the "great" novels of the past 300 years could never usurp the aesthetic supremacy of an Aeneid or a Divine Comedy. Even the strongest contenders (say, "War and Peace") only equivocally so.

And most of the great novelists in living memory-- say, Roth, Bellow, Updike, Mailer in the States, or Murdoch, Byatt, or such in the UK-- can hardly make a sustained case to rival the likes of Austen, Melville, G. Eliot or H. James.

For whatever combination of factors, the recent past (several decades) has seen a triumph of process over the honing of the individual, visionary work. Writing in general is more journalistic or offhand. A Roth or a Murdoch puts you through a lot of familiar paces, yes, but that's partly because they are brilliantly in tune with public anxieties and so what they are compulsively acting out is what we are compulsively acting out.

Which, not so surprisingly, largely amounts to fucked-up marriages and constant desperate attempts to reinvent ourselves.

Also: Roth, Bellow, Murdoch, Muriel Spark, Fay Weldon are all screamingly, 'incorrectly' funny and full of violent, murderous mayhem of a highly irrational quality. Again, it suits our Age.

Christy said...

Read Goodbye Columbus for freshman English. I'm sure it is my lack but I found the novel physically repulsive. Seriously, reading it was like spending time in Satre's No Exit. Then for book club decades later I read The Plot Against America and liked it ok. I'm tempted to say that as a Southern woman Roth's novels are totally alien and unpalatable. But how can that be? I worship at Naipaul's feet and his characters are even further removed from my experience.

I suspect Fowles The Magus would have been pulped decades ago if women had been on any judging panels. As it is, he made at least a couple of the 20th Century lists of best books.

BTW, I've read a few Booker Prize winners over the years, but most of the time I don't recongnize any names on the short list. How about the rest of you?

William said...

In one of his books, Roth addressed the problem of people not wishing to shake his hands. He said that when he visits friends' homes, he goes to their bathroom and leaves deposits of fresh sperm on their soap bars. That'll serve the bastards....Roth is very funny and inventive. Some of his conceits are as brilliant and insightful as they are self centered and overly elaborate.....He is the only novelist I still read. His later books examine what aging is all about. Front line dispatches. I read him the way soldiers on troop ships overseas used to read Hemingway. There are useful lessons to be learned.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

"Feminist on a panel that chooses winners of the Man Booker International prize withdraws when the panel picks Philip Roth."

Irony alert - self-centeredness is boring.

wv - gases

You have 3 gases to spot the feminist

Ross MacLochness said...

Did she really say "core of their beings"? Core of their beings!? What is this, 1973?

Charlie Martin said...

"Choses"?

McGehee said...

"...in 20 years' time will anyone read him?"

Heh. I think I wondered that 30 years ago. He seems to have stood the test so far.

Greg Toombs said...

Sit on my face and tell me that you love me
I'll sit on your face and tell you I love you too
I love to hear you oralize
When I'm between your thighs
You blow me away

Sit on my face and let my lips embrace you
I'll sit on your face and then I'll love you truly
Life can be fine if we both sixty nine
If we sit on our faces in all sorts of places
And play till we're blown away

(Monty Python)

Tibore said...

"tim maguire said...
I tried to read Portnoy's Complaint once. Utter dreck. I'd swear he was sitting at his typewriter with a copy of the DSM-whichever and went down the list, making a chapter for each symptom."


So what you're saying is that he'd make a great encyclopedist?

;)

Steve Rosenbach said...

I couldn't get through more than a few dozen pages of Portnoy's Complaint, but that was a few decades ago.

When I recently read The Plot Against America, I thought it was a first-rate piece of fiction. I found myself feeling deeply upset and terrified at points in the book, forgetting for the moment that I absolutely knew that it was an alternate history of events of over 70 years ago. To have that effect on me, I judged Roth's writing to be very good indeed.

Steve Rosenbach said...

"...Of course every time Maya Angelou writes a new laundry regime update for her domestic staff, it's "Pulitzer, get out of the way!!!!"..."

I wish I had thought that!

... well said, Lincolntf

Dex Quire said...

Read Roth's "The Counterlife"

Read Updike's "The Coup"

and Saul Bellow, "Mr. Sammler's Planet"

They were at the top of their game, very imaginative, interesting moving funny work.

JorgXMcKie said...

Could be worse. Reading Joyce Carol Oates' variations on "stone losers Eff it up, again" is like having a dry cleaner's plastic bag pulled over your head. The oxygen runs out extremely quickly.

WV: cunonse. ain't touching that one.

Popville said...

Henry said...
> Roth, Roth, Roth... Didn't he write Goodbye Columbus?

The best thing about Goodbye Columbus was it led to The Association's fantastic, Jim Yester penned theme song for the movie.

rohit said...

Must be an enjoyable read American Pastoral by Philip Roth. loved the way you wrote it. I find your review very genuine and orignal, this book is going in by "to read" list.