Comprehensive Survey of a Great Author's Life and Work
Although now officially retired from novel-writing, Philip Roth can lay claim to be one of America's greatest living novelists. Throughout his long career he has experimented both with the content and form of the novel, to such an extent that the overarching themes of his oeuvre are very difficult to identify. He remains a protean figure, often writing autobiographically (using his alter ego Nathan Zuckerman), but seldom revealing too much about himself. This public persona remains much the same in Alan Yentob's documentary - although willingly consenting to be interviewed, he reveals little about himself, even though he seems ready and willing to talk about his work. This program (the first in a two- parter) focuses especially on Roth's Jewishness, and how it has colored much of his work: at once an insider and an outsider, he has rarely felt part of the New York society he has mostly inhabited. Most of his novels are about alienation, whether physical or mental; and how the protagonists learn to cope - or not to cope - with it. While critics have often represented him as a 'shocking' novelist (especially after the publication of PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT), Roth himself rejects that construction, preferring instead to concentrate on his experiments with the novelistic form.
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