I want to write like Roth when he was 26
While I consider myself an amateur writer, I do believe I am a serious reader. I have not studied literature, philology nor languages but I just can’t live without reading. And as the responsible reader I consider myself, I searched for the “must read” list. In the North American there was of course Philip Roth. When I have no references I usually start with either a best-seller or a prize winner. With Roth, I started with American Pastoral.
A serious person could not stay unimpressed by such a great novel. I did not of course. But I failed to connect with Roth, as I did with other great writers. So there were no plans to read him again. A serious reader has a huge waiting list of authors and a whole life is not enough to cover it. But then, if you happen to be a reader of physical books, sometimes you cannot say no to deals showing themselves in front of you. Goodbye Columbus was in front of me for a one-euro coin. I bought it, put it on the shelf and it graciously waited for its moment to come.
Then it came. When I opened it, I realized it was his first book, composed by a short novella and stories. I confess I consider first books risky, as they may show a work still in construction, opposed to middle-writing-life works. And I have never been a fan of short stories. But this was Philip Roth. It is like La ciudad y los perros from Vargas Llosa. A forceful start. The main story is classically structurated and touches themes like adolescent love, classism, ethnicity with maturity.
I must say I loved the stories because they are also well wrapped. That means that, in general, I am not into open-end or play-with-the-reader stories. The conversion of the Jews is a funny children story, Defender of the faith is -it was- one of the most controversial stories as it depicts a negative cliché of a Jew, BY a Jew. Epstein, You Can’t Tell a Man by the Song He Sings are good. And Eli, the Fanatic is a wonderful piece that reminded me of Wilde or Stevenson, an alteration of the being taken to its parody.
Goodbye Columbus may mean that I might miss another author (can you regret what did not yet happened?) in favor of a third book by Roth. That is, if I find a good deal 😉