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Philip Roth in the spotlight

September 15, 2008 | 10:46 am

Philiproth

James Marcus interviewed Philip Roth, whose 26th novel, "Indignation," is out this week. He finds the author "soft spoken . . . thoughtful" -- anything but indignant. Roth talks about about 9/11 in fiction, his writing process, films of his books (movie rights to "Indignation" were snapped up in April) and his reasons for placing his latest fiction in the 1950s instead of in a contemporary setting. He's candid -- surprising, perhaps, when he explains what he likes to read:

I read history and politics and biography. I do go on small binges of reading writers who meant a great deal to me a long time ago. But I haven't kept up with my younger contemporaries.

Whatever works, right? Last year, Richard Rayner looked back on Philip Roth's almost five-decade career. He described Roth this way:

An aging writer who had sometimes lived too much inside his own head has lost none of his fury, writing with the same virtuosic gifts about a wider world.

Would Philip Roth, who writes every day, have published so much if he were getting started in the oughts? When he was a college student in the Midwest in the early 1950s -- as is the protagonist of "Indignation" -- there was no Twitter or Facebook to update, no blog waiting to syphon off a writing fury. There weren't quite the same hype-led book titles, either -- which is what distinguishes Phil Roth from Philip Roth in the "Ugly Betty" clip after the jump.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo credit: Associated Press Photo / Houghton Mifflin, Nancy Crampton

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