Philip Roth, ‘Middlemarch’ and other letters to the editor

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to the Editor:

I have been a reader of book reviews for over 50 years, but I never wrote. Cynthia Ozik Review “Philip Roth: The Biography” (April 11) changed my mind. Simply put: This is the single best written book review I’ve read in my entire life.

I have been a loyal reader of all of Philip Roth’s books, and now the stunning biography of Blake Bailey. Ozik, who is a gifted writer, embodies in his life the character of both his ruthless prose and perceptiveness, perfectly Roth and biography. Roth was one of the deans of American literature in the 20th century. full stop. Whatever his critics have said – and are saying – his 31 books are a testament to a life well written.

Ozik’s review is so beautifully written, so eloquent, so challenging, that I wish he had written a biography of Roth as well. Blake Bailey’s gift as a biographer – so apparent with his book on John Cheever – is astonishing, and Ozick’s appreciation of that writing is remarkably generous. His last sentence is worthy of Tolstoy’s and should be taught in every English class in this country: “What remains on the page is the life of a writer as he lived, and – almost – as it was felt.”

Bravo Cynthia Ozik, Bravo Blake Bailey and Bravo Philip Roth.

Ivan Charkes
Dobbs Ferry, NY

to the Editor:

The next time you provide a review for a new biography, try not to make a biased selection for the job. Ozik briefly mentions the author of the latest Phillip Roth biography before dedicating the bulk of his heavy review to justifying the problematic Roth and his uneven oeuvre. He is particularly rude thrown at the women’s Roth, stressing from the dismissal that they were all “conditionally conservative.”

Rather, she explains that when Roth’s first wife died in a car accident, “how Roth suddenly became free.” Roth’s second wife, Claire Bloom, wrote wonderfully thoughtfully about their marriage, but Ozick denoted it as “vengeful”, even though the term was Roth’s largely useless “I Married a Communist.” Describes, which was also to score. The reviewer even refers to Bloom’s love of his daughter as a “bizarre and consumption fixation”.

A review means expressing a book adequately to help potential buyers. If a review of Ozick’s biography accurately sums up Bailey’s biography, we can all safely put it on our “Must Miss” list.

Geoffrey Bent
Brooklyn

to the Editor:

Congratulations to you for the amazing art commissioned from Ian Wright. This is an ideal foil for review.

Jessica weber
New York

to the Editor:

Elizabeth McCracken’s terrible-to-unconscious-praise review Jackie Polzin’s “Brood” (April 4) is an accomplished if disrespected fellow fellow novelist – whose job was the privilege of falling into the hands of a reviewer who wishes it a different book.

McCracken has admitted that bad reviews of his own work by “professional critics” mean little to him, while “my own, the mildest mixed praise of a fictional writer, provokes forever on my heart.”

If those incisions were only considered before a colleague was taken to a coworker’s job, that kind of mixed-praise review has pained him.

Larry Roth
Berkeley, California.

to the Editor:

Is close to a. O Scott’s Fine Essay Ollie Olsen (28 March) recalled the well-known words ending the “midmarch”: “But the influence they had on the people around them was immense: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistorical acts; And those things are not so ill with you and me as they might be, because of the half-number who faithfully lived a hidden life, and were resting in unhindered tombs. “

Penny rose
Toronto



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