Two big recent losses for American letters

Read any good books lately?
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Two big recent losses for American letters

Post by Upton_O_Goode » Wed May 23, 2018 2:09 pm

As you know, we lost Tom Wolfe a few weeks ago, and now we've lost Philip Roth. In my view, Roth was the best American writer of the second half of the twentieth century, and Wolfe was No. 2, though not really in Roth's league. They both wrote with deep sympathy and understanding about ordinary Americans. Never mentioned in the long list of Roth's writings that the news media cite is what I regard as his masterpiece, When She Was Good, which I read back in 1974. I was struck by how sensitively he wrote about the typical Midwestern Protestants who were the dominant culture of the time in the US. It's an injustice that he never got the Nobel Prize.

As for Wolfe, I liked Bonfire of the Vanities, but I think his best was the novelette Ambush at Fort Bragg, which, like Roth's work, explores class distinctions in the US and gives even an elitist like me a great deal of sympathy for the Rednecks. They have a hard life, and if they are somewhat crude and unrefined, they can't help it. Wolfe makes the reader understand that and neatly deflates the pretensions of the "refaned" people who look down on them.
"We survivors did not seek death. We did not take to the streets when our Jewish friends were taken away. We didn’t raise an outcry until we ourselves were being annihilated. We preferred to remain alive, with the flimsy though accurate excuse that our death would not have helped. We are guilty of being alive."

Karl Jaspers (1883–1968), at the re-opening of Heidelberg University, 1945

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Re: Two big recent losses for American letters

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Wed May 23, 2018 2:35 pm

Yea verily. My bucket list is full of books to re-read.

Now........there is a puzzler? What is the better course for most people?????? To re-read a favored book with the pleasure/pain/recognition of how your memory and first read was so different?........or to read an entirely new book.....before its too late???????

Pros and Cons to all we do..........the overriding Pro: read something for Noble's Sake. I see a new series starting on PBS about the Great American Novel, aka why books are good and a review of a selected group. I doubt I will like it, but its about books..............
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Re: Two big recent losses for American letters

Post by Tom Palven » Wed May 23, 2018 4:09 pm

My favorites from Wolfe are A Man in Full, I Am Charlotte Simmons, and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, which decribed the adventures of Ken Kesey.
If one can be taught to believe absurdities, one can commit atrocities. --Voltaire