Video: Celebrating Philip Roth #6: Reading from Patrimony at Center for Fiction

by David Varno | May-14-2011

To conclude this week's series, Celebrating Philip Roth, which follows the National Book Critics Circle's collaboration with the Center for Fiction this past spring, we are presenting the complete video of Roth reading from his NBCC-award winning autobiography, Patrimony, courtesy of the Center for Fiction. Roth is one of the NBCC's most honored authors; he received the NBCC fiction award in 1987 for The Counterlife, and the NBCC autobiography award in 1991 for Patrimony: A True Story. He was an NBCC fiction finalist in 1977 for The Professor of Desire, in 1979 for The Ghost Writer, in 1983 for The Anatomy Lesson, in 1997 for American Pastoral, and in 2004 for The Plot Against America.

The February 24th event at the Center for Fiction, when this reading took place, began with a conversation about Roth's work (see podcast) moderated by New Yorker staff writer Claudia Roth Pierpont with Nathan Englander and Scott Raab, preceded by a welcome from Noreen Tomassi, Executive Director for the Center for Fiction. 

NBCC president Jane Ciabattari introduced Roth. "To give us time to appreciate the reading to come," she said,"I am going to follow Saul Bellow’s lead. In nominating Philip Roth for the Nobel Prize, Bellow wrote to the Swedish Academy from Brookline. His letter was brief (and thanks to Ben Taylor for unearthing this in his wonderful collection of Bellow letters): "I wish to nominate the American novelist Philip Roth for the Nobel Prize.  His books have been so widely examined and praised that it would be superfluous for me to describe, or praise, his gifts."

"I can say this," she added. "Philip Roth is one of those once-in-a –lifetime writers. The voice, so attuned to the zeitgeist. The energy. The rigor. All there at the beginning, all still there in his latest work. As Saul Bellow wrote to Roth early in his career (and thanks again to Ben Taylor),  "I knew when I hit Chicago...and read your stories. I knew that you were the real thing. When I was a little kid, there were still blacksmiths around, and I've never forgotten the ring of a real hammer on a real anvil." 

Critical Mass postings this past week have included a range of Philip Roth reviews, his acceptance speech when he won the NBCC fiction award for The Counterlife in 1988, and more.

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