Roth Requiescat but Rest Not, Revelator!
Philip Roth died on May 22, 2018, my father's birthday, at age 85. His book, The Counterlife, is dedicated "To my father at eighty-five." This date will now haunt me and hinge on memories of two fathers, both literary paters, one the biological antecedent, each inspiring agents of complicated, crucial creations. Since Bloomsday is coming up and so too Father's Day, I might ceremonially ablate my connection with these two fathers by quoting Stephen Dedalus in Ulysses: "Paternity is legal fiction."
Alas, I cannot: I am tied to these two fathers inextricably and lovingly. I am also the legacy of many more mothers, literary and otherwise, but that is a meditation for some other time.
Last Sunday, June 3rd, I participated in a commemorative tour of Philip Roth's hometown of Newark, along with three busloads of other incorrigible Rothaholics.
Led by Newark Landmarks & Preservation Committee Founder Liz Del Tufo, a luminous legacy of the City herself, this afternoon was infused with anecdotes by Roth fans and friends and selected readings from Roth's books. We visited his boyhood 81 Summit Avenue house (see pics below) I was asked to read from The Counterlife, the only book of Roth's I have not scoured and devoured intentionally.
Usually, a completist, a biblio-binger of my many author favorites (including Denis Johnson, who died a year ago on May 24th), I intentionally swore off this one title, as if Roth's literary production that ceased in 2011 would resume prolifically, magically, if I held off consuming the canon entirely; as if he would never die ("To my father at eighty-five"), if I resisted the compulsion to bring closure to his creative universe in my own experience. Such foolishness, I know, but for filial piety some sons have agreed to go under the knife to abide divine orders or have tried to show off to their dads by flying too high with aerial equipment too waxen not to wane.
I have now begun The Counterlife but have not begun to imagine not reading and relishing a new book by Philip Roth.