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Tag: Philip Roth

“I don’t use a machine,” the gravedigger said

Saturday, 29 June, 2019

“He was walking back through the cemetery to his car when he came upon a black man digging a grave with a shovel. The man was standing about two feet down in the unfinished grave and stopped shoveling and hurling the dirt out to the side as the visitor approached him. He wore dark coveralls and an old baseball cap, and from the gray in his mustache and the lines in his face he looked to be at least fifty. His frame, however, was still thick and strong.

“I thought they did this with a machine,” he said to the gravedigger.

“In big cemeteries, where they do many graves, a lot of times they use a machine, that’s right.” He spoke like a Southerner, but very matter-of-factly, very precisely, more like a pedantic schoolteacher than a physical laborer. “I don’t use a machine,” the gravedigger continued, “because it can sink the other graves. The soil can give and it can crush in on the box. And you have the gravestones you have to deal with. It’s just easier in my case to do everything by hand. Much neater. Easier to take the dirt away without ruining anything else. ” — Philip Roth, Everyman


Short short story

Thursday, 23 May, 2013 0 Comments

“Representatives of different food products manufacturers try to open their own packaging.” That’s a short story titled Idea for a Short Documentary Film by the short-story writer Lydia Davis. It appeared in the Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, which was published in 2009. The American author, who has just won the Man Booker International Prize for fiction, is also an accomplished translator and her English version of Proust’s Swann’s Way was very well received. Indeed, she once said it was Proust’s famously long sentences that inspired her succinct writing style.

Negative Emotions is typical of the Davis approach to (short) story telling.

The Man Booker International Prize is presented every two years to a living author for a body of work published either originally in English or available in translation in English. Previous winners include US novelist Philip Roth in 2011, the late Nigerian poet and novelist Chinua Achebe in 2007 and the Albanian writer Ismail Kadare in 2005.

Philip Roth at 80

Tuesday, 19 March, 2013 0 Comments

For years, Philip Roth suffered from writer’s block that ended only when sessions with an analyst freed him to be “shameless” in his writing. Portnoy’s Complaint was the result. Before it was published, he sat down with his parents and warned them the book was going to cause a lot of controversy. It was only later, Roth says, that he found out his father brought a box of advance copies and proudly passed them out on friends and strangers, boldly autographed “From Philip Roth’s father.”

Portnoy's Complaint “They worship a Jew, do you know that, Alex? Their whole big-deal religion is based on worshiping someone who was an established Jew at that time. Now how do you like that for stupidity? How do you like that for pulling the wool over the eyes of the public? Jesus Christ, who they go around telling everybody was God, was actually a Jew! And this fact, that absolutely kills me when I have to think about it, nobody else pays any attention to. That he was a Jew, like you and me, and that they took a Jew and turned him into some kind of God after he is already dead, and then — and this is what can make you absolutely crazy — then the dirty bastards turn around afterwards, and who is the first one on their list to persecute? Who haven’t they left their hands off of to murder and to hate for two thousand years? The Jews! Who gave them their beloved Jesus to begin with! I assure you, Alex, you are never going to hear such a mishegoss of mixed-up crap and disgusting nonsense as the Christian religion in your entire life. And that’s what these big shots, so-called, believe!”

Philip Roth, Portnoy’s Complaint