Read a Huge Annotated Online Edition of Frankenstein: A Modern Way to Celebrate the 200th Anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Classic Novel

Born out of evening reading of spooky stories on a rain-soaked holiday, Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein has resonated through the years into pop culture, a warning against science and technology, of how the thirst for knowledge can literally create monsters. If you’ve been binging Westworld or loved Ex Machina you are seeing Shelley’s legacy, both filled with scientific creations that question their own reason for existence.

Just like those works are products of our era, Frankenstein did not just arise from a dream state—-Shelley was influenced by the concerns, events, and news of her day.

Therefore this annotated version of Frankenstein, called Frankenbook, should make a topical and important read this summer. And everybody can take part, if they choose to join the discussion.




“Annotated for scientists, engineers, and creators of all kinds,” is how the website describes the project, created in January 2018 by Arizona State University to honor the bicentennial of the book’s publication. “Frankenbook gives readers the opportunity to trace the scientific, technological, political, and ethical dimensions of the novel, and to learn more about its historical context and enduring legacy.”

You will have to sign up (just an email and a password is necessary) to actually see the novel, but once in, you can get reading. Along the way on the right hand side of the margin, a cluster of black dots indicate if a section is annotated. Click on the dots with your mouse and the annotation will appear. (The annotations are also available at the end of each of the novel's three parts for those who just want to read the novel straight through.)

Dozens of experts have contributed to the annotations so far, and opening an account allows you to submit your own to the editors for consideration. You can also filter annotations by one of eight themes: “Equity & Inclusion” (social justice issues), “Health & Medicine,” “Influences and Adaptations,” “Mary Shelley” (personal information about the author), “Motivations & Sentiments,” “Philosophy & Politics,” “Science,” and “Technology.”

The site also features several essays on the novel's various themes, including ones by Cory Doctorow, Anne K. Mellor, Josephine Johnston, and others.

If you’ve been putting off reading Shelley’s classic for whatever reason, this is probably the best chance to read it. And if you’ve read it before, it's time to revisit it alongside a host of virtual experts. The web, that Promethian creation of our own time, is actually good for some things, you know!

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the FunkZone Podcast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

Visualizing Dante’s Hell: See Maps & Drawings of Dante’s Inferno from the Renaissance Through Today

The light was departing. The brown air drew down
     all the earth’s creatures, calling them to rest
     from their day-roving, as I, one man alone,

prepared myself to face the double war
     of the journey and the pity, which memory
     shall here set down, nor hesitate, nor err.

Reading Dante’s Inferno, and Divine Comedy generally, can seem a daunting task, what with the book’s wealth of allusion to 14th century Florentine politics and medieval Catholic theology. Much depends upon a good translation. Maybe it’s fitting that the proverb about translators as traitors comes from Italian. The first Dante that came my way—the unabridged Carlyle-Okey-Wicksteed English translation—renders the poet’s terza rima in leaden prose, which may well be a literary betrayal.

Gone is the rhyme scheme, self-contained stanzas, and poetic compression, replaced by wordiness, antiquated diction, and needless density. I labored through the text and did not much enjoy it. I’m far from an expert by any stretch, but was much relieved to later discover John Ciardi’s more faithful English rendering, which immediately impresses upon the senses and the memory, as in the description above in the first stanzas of Canto II.

The sole advantage, perhaps, of the translation I first encountered lies in its use of illustrations, maps, and diagrams. While readers can follow the poem’s vivid action without visual aids, these lend to the text a kind of imaginative materiality: saying yes, of course, this is a real place—see, it’s right here! We can suspend our disbelief, perhaps, in Catholic doctrine and, doubly, in Dante’s weirdly officious, comically bureaucratic, scheme of hell.

Indeed, readers of Dante have been inspired to map his Inferno for almost as long as they have been inspired to translate it into other languages—and we might consider these maps more-or-less-faithful visual translations of the Inferno’s descriptions. One of the first maps of Dante’s hell (top) appeared in Sandro Botticelli’s series of ninety illustrations, which the Renaissance great and fellow Florentine made on commission for Lorenzo de’Medici in the 1480s and 90s.

Botticelli’s “Chart of Hell,” writes Deborah Parker, “has long been lauded as one of the most compelling visual representations… a panoptic display of the descent made by Dante and Virgil through the ‘abysmal valley of pain.’” Below it, we see one of Antonio Manetti’s 1506 woodcut illustrations, a series of cross-sections and detailed views. Maps continued to proliferate: see printmaker Antonio Maretti’s 1529 diagram further up, Joannes Stradanus’ 1587 version, above, and, below, a 1612 illustration below by Jacques Callot.

Dante’s hell lends itself to any number of visual treatments, from the purely schematic to the broadly imaginative and interpretive. Michelangelo Caetani’s 1855 cross-section chart, below, lacks the illustrative detail of other maps, but its use of color and highly organized labeling system makes it far more legible that Callot’s beautiful but busy drawing above.

Though we are within our rights as readers to see Dante’s hell as purely metaphorical, there are historical reasons beyond religious belief for why more literal maps became popular in the 15th century, “including,” writes Atlas Obscura, “the general popularity of cartography at the time and the Renaissance obsession with proportions and measurement.”

Even after hundreds of years of cultural shifts and upheavals, the Inferno and its humorous and horrific scenes of torture still retain a fascination for modern readers and for illustrators like Daniel Heald, whose 1994 map, above, while lacking Botticelli’s gilded brilliance, presents us with a clear visual guide through that perplexing valley of pain, which remains—in the right translation or, doubtless, in its original language—a pleasure for readers who are willing to descend into its circular depths. Or, short of that, we can take a digital train and escalators into an 8-bit video game version.

See more maps of Dante’s Inferno here, here, and here.

via Atlas Obscura

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

George Orwell Reveals the Role & Responsibility of the Writer “In an Age of State Control”

Image by BBC, via Wikimedia Commons

What is the role of the writer in times of political turmoil? Professional athletes get told to “shut up and play” when they speak out—as if they had no vested interest in current events or a constitutional right to speak. But it is generally assumed that writers have a central part to play in public discourse, even when they don’t explicitly write about politics. When writers make controversial statements, it sounds a little ridiculous to tell them to “shut up and write.”

On one view, “it is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies,” as Noam Chomsky declares in "The Responsibility of Intellectuals." Chomsky deplores those who comfortably accept the consensus and deliberately disseminate untruths out of a "failure of skepticism" and blind belief in the purity of their motives. Faced with obvious lies, outrages, and oppression, “intellectuals”— journalists, academics, artists, even clergy—should “follow the path of integrity, wherever it may lead.”




One such intellectual, George Orwell, is often held up across the political spectrum as a paradigm of intellectual integrity. Orwell, as you might expect, had his own thoughts on what he called “the position of the writer in an age of State control.” He expressed his view in a 1948 essay titled “Writers and the Leviathan.” He accords with Chomsky in most respects, yet in the end does not endorse the view that the political responsibilities of writers are greater than anyone else. Yet Orwell also expresses similar wariness about writers becoming cardboard propagandists, and losing their creative, critical, and ethical integrity.

Orwell begins his argument by claiming that writers bear some responsibility for creating the culture that nurtures politics. “WHAT KIND of State rules over us,” he writes, “must depend partly on the prevailing intellectual atmosphere: meaning, in this context, partly on the attitude of writers and artists themselves.” Moreover, he suggests, it is unrealistic to expect writers, or anyone for that matter, not to have strong political opinions. The “special problem of totalitarianism” infects everything, even literature, making “a purely aesthetic attitude,” like that of Oscar Wilde, “impossible.”

This is a political age. War, Fascism, concentration camps, rubber truncheons, atomic bombs, etc are what we daily think about, and therefore to a great extent what we write about, even when we do not name them openly. We cannot help this. When you are on a sinking ship,
your thoughts will be about sinking ships. 

Seventy years after Orwell’s essay, we live in no less a “political age," burdened by daily thoughts of all the above, plus the deadly effects of climate change and other ills Orwell could not foresee.

We also see our age reflected in Orwell’s description of the “orthodoxies and ‘party lines’” that plague the writer. “A modern literary intellectual,” he writes, “lives and writes in constant dread—not, indeed, of public opinion in the wider sense, but of public opinion within his own group…. At any given moment there is a dominant orthodoxy, to offend against which needs a thick skin and sometimes means cutting one’s income in half for years on end.”

But integrity requires unorthodox thinking. Orwell goes on to analyze a number of “unresolved contradictions” on the left that make a wholesale, uncritical embrace of its political orthodoxy tantamount to “mental dishonesty." He takes pains to note that this phenomenon is inherent to every political ideology: “acceptance of ANY political discipline seems to be incompatible with literary integrity.” Here is a dilemma. Ignoring politics is irresponsible and impossible. But so is committing to a party line.

Well, then what? Do we have to conclude that it is the duty of every writer to "keep out of politics"? Certainly not! In any case, as I have said already, no thinking person can or does genuinely keep out of politics, in an age like the present one. I only suggest that we should 
draw a sharper distinction than we do at present between our political and our literary loyalties, and should recognise that a willingness to DO certain distasteful but necessary things does not carry with it any obligation to swallow the beliefs that usually go with them. When a writer engages in politics he should do so as a citizen, as a human being, but not AS A WRITER. I do not think that he has the right, merely on the score of his sensibilities, to shirk the ordinary dirty work of politics. Just as much as anyone else, he should be prepared to deliver lectures in draughty halls, to chalk pavements, to canvass voters, to distribute leaflets, even to fight in civil wars if it seems necessary. But whatever else he does in the service of his party, he should never write for it. He should make it clear that his writing is a thing apart. And he should be able to act co-operatively while, if he chooses, completely rejecting the official ideology. He should never turn back from a train of thought because it may lead to a heresy, and he should not mind very much if his unorthodoxy is smelt out, as it probably will be.

It might be objected that Orwell himself wrote an awful lot about politics from a definite point of view (which he defined in “Why I Write” as “against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism"). He even cited “political purpose” as one of four reasons that serious writers have for writing. But before accusing him of hypocrisy, we must read on for more nuance. “There is no reason,” he says, that a writer “should not write in the most crudely political way, if he wishes to. Only he should do so as an individual, an outsider, at the most an unwelcome guerilla on the flank of a regular army.” (His position is reminiscent of James Baldwin's, a political writer who "excoriated the protest novel.") And if the writer finds some of that army’s positions untenable, “then the remedy is not to falsify one’s impulses, but to remain silent.”

Orwell's essay characterizes the "almost inevitable nature of the irruption of politics into culture," argues Enzo Traverso, "Writers were no longer able to shut themselves up in a universe of aesthetic values, sheltered from the conflicts that were tearing apart the old world." The kind of compartmentalization he recommends might seem cynical, but it represents for him a pragmatic third way between the “ivory tower” and the “party machine,” a way for the writer to act ethically in the world yet retain a “saner self [who] stands aside, records the things that are done and admits their necessity, but refuses to be deceived as to their true nature" and thus become a party mouthpiece, rather than an artist and critical thinker.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

How William S. Burroughs Embraced, Then Rejected Scientology, Forcing L. Ron Hubbard to Come to Its Defense (1959-1970)

Image by Christiaan Tonnis, via Wikimedia Commons

William S. Burroughs was a cultural prism. Through him, the mid-century demi-monde of illicit drug use and marginalized sexualities—of occult beliefs, alternative religions, and bizarre conspiracy theories—was refracted on the page in experimental writing that inspired everyone from his fellow Beats to the punks of later decades to name-your-countercultural-touchstone of the past fifty years or so. There are many such people in history: those who go to the places that most fear to tread and send back reports written in language that alters reality. To quote L. Ron Hubbard, another writer who purported to do just that, “the world needs their William Burroughses.”

And Burroughs, so it appears, needed L. Ron Hubbard, at least for most of the sixties, when the writer became a devout follower of the Church of Scientology. The sci-fi-inspired “new religious movement” that needs no further introduction proved irresistible in 1959 when Burroughs met John and Mary Cooke, two founding members of the church who had been trying to recruit Burroughs’ friend and frequent artistic partner Brion Gysin. “Ultimately,” writes Lee Konstantinou at io9, “it was Burroughs, not Gysin, who explored the Church that L. Ron Hubbard built. Burroughs took Scientology so seriously that he became a 'Clear' and almost became an 'Operating Thetan.'"




Burroughs immersed himself without reservation in the practices and principles of Scientology, writing letters to Allen Ginsberg that same year in which he recommends his friend “contact [a] local chapter and find an auditor. They do the job without hypnosis or drugs, simply run the tape back and forth until the trauma is wiped off. It works. I have used the method—partially responsible for recent changes.” No doubt Burroughs had his share of personal trauma to overcome, but he also found Scientology especially conducive to his greater creative project of countering “the Reactive Mind… an ancient instrument of control designed to stultify and limit the potential for action in a constructive or destructive direction.”

The method of “auditing” gave Burroughs a good deal of material to work with in his fiction and filmmaking experiments. He and Gysin included Scientology's language in a short 1961 film called “Towers Open Fire,” which was, writes Konstantinou, “designed to show the process of control systems breaking down.” Scientology appeared in 1962’s The Ticket That Exploded and again in 1964’s Nova ExpressEach novel references the concept of “engrams,” which Burroughs succinctly defines as “traumatic material.” During this hugely productive period, the radically anti-authoritarian Burroughs “associated the group with a range of mind-expanding and mind-freeing practices.”

It's easy to say Burroughs uncritically partook of a certain sugary beverage. But he clearly made his own idiosyncratic uses of Scientology, incorporating it within the syncretic constellation of references, practices, and cut-up techniques “designed to jam up what he called ‘the Reality Studio,’ aka the everyday, conditioned, mind-controlled reality.” An inevitable turning point came, however, in 1968, as Burroughs journeyed deeper into Scientology’s secret order at the world headquarters in Saint Hill Manor in the UK. There, he reported, he “had to work hard to suppress or rationalize his persistently negative feelings toward L. Ron Hubbard during auditing sessions.”

Burroughs’ dislike of the church’s founder and extreme aversion to “what he considered its Orwellian security protocols” eventuated his break with Scientology, which he undertook gradually and publicly in a series of “bulletins” published during the late sixties in the London magazine Mayfair. Before his "clearing course" with Hubbard, in a 1967 article excerpted and republished as a pamphlet by the church itself, Burroughs praises Scientology and its founder, and claims that “there is nothing secret about Scientology, no talk of initiates, secret doctrines, or hidden knowledge.”

By 1970, he had made an about-face, in a fiercely polemical essay titled “I, William Burroughs, Challenge You, L. Ron Hubbard,” published in the Los Angeles Free Press. While he continues to value some of the benefits of auditing, Burroughs declares the church’s founder “grandiose” and “fascist” and lays out his objections to its initiations, secret doctrines, and hidden knowledge, among other things:

…One does not simply pay the tuitions, obtain the materials and study. Oh no. One must JOIN. One must ‘sign up for the duration of the universe’ (Sea Org members are required to sign a billion-year contract)…. Furthermore whole categories of people are automatically excluded from training and processing and may never see Mr Hubbard’s confidential materials.

Burroughs challenges Hubbard to “show his confidential materials to the astronauts of inner space,” including Gysin, Ginsberg, and Timothy Leary; to the “students of language like Marshall MacLuhan and Noam Chompsky" [sic]; and to “those who have fought for freedom in the streets: Eldridge Cleaver, Stokely Carmichael, Abe Hoffman, Dick Gregory…. If he has what he says he has, the results should be cataclysmic.”

The debate continued in the pages of Mayfair when Hubbard published a lengthy and blandly genial reply to Burroughs’ challenge, in an article that also contained, in an inset, a brief rebuttal from Burroughs. The debate will surely be of interest to students of the strange history of Scientology, and it should most certainly be followed by lovers of Burroughs’ work. In the process of embracing, then rejecting, the controlling movement, he compellingly articulates a need for “unimaginable extensions of awareness" to deal with the trauma of living on what he calls the "sinking ship" of planet Earth.

via io9

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Hear Philip Roth Read from Five of His Major Novels: Sabbath’s Theater, The Ghost Writer and More

"I saw and heard something remarkable just a few hours ago," wrote New Yorker editor David Remnick a little over five years ago, "something I’m not likely to forget until all the mechanisms of remembering are shot and I’m tucked away for good." He had attended an eightieth-birthday celebration for the late Philip Roth at the Newark Museum. There, after a series of tributes from fellow literary figures including Jonathan Lethem, Hermione Lee, and Edna O'Brien, the Newark-born-and-raised novelist gave what Remnick described as "the most astonishing literary performance I’ve ever witnessed."

Roth began by naming all the memories of his Newark childhood about which he would not speak that evening, from "the newsreels at the Roosevelt Theatre" to "the fights at Laurel Garden" to "seeing Jackie Robinson play for the Montreal Royals against the Newark Bears, at Ruppert Stadium" and much else besides. Then, after admitting that he had committed paralipsis, the rhetorical technique of bringing up a subject by saying that you won't, "Roth finally settled into his real theme of the night: death. Happy birthday, indeed!"

You can hear Roth's performance in its 45-minute entirety in this video, in which he also reads a passage from 1995's Sabbath's Theater. You can see Roth giving another reading from that book, which he calls his favorite (and also "death-haunted"), in the 92Y video at the top of the post.




Its title character, the sex-obsessed 63-year-old puppeteer Mickey Sabbath, exists as a law unto himself. He lives a chaotic, sordidly pleasure-seeking life in response, Roth explains, "to a place where nothing keeps its promise and everything is perishable."

Among Roth's 31 books, the standalone Sabbath's Theater lays a fair claim to the title of his masterpiece. But unlike other memorable Roth protagonists, Sabbath starred in no other books. The most sprawling character-connected series Roth wrote, which spans nine books written over nearly three decades, features novelist and authorial alter ego Nathan Zuckerman.

You can hear Roth read selections from the first three Zuckerman novels, 1979's The Ghost Writer (also known as Zuckerman Bound), 1981's Zuckerman Unbound, and 1983's The Anatomy Lesson, in the three videos above. Roth's last cycle of novels were connected not by common characters but by their short length and, in their brevity, even more intense explorations of the themes, or theme, always dear to him: what it means to have grown up American at a certain period in history, and how that meaning transforms and deepens with age.

In the video above, Roth reads the end of 2010's Nemesis, his final novelistic meditation on that theme. In it several characters of his generation, then young boys, watch their teacher throw a javelin. "Running with the javelin aloft, stretching his throwing arm back behind his body, bringing the throwing arm through to release the javelin high over his shoulder, and releasing it then like an explosion, he seemed to us invincible." The awe Nemesis' narrator and his friends feel witnessing that athletic mastery, Roth's readers feel — and will continue to feel — witnessing his literary mastery.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

You Can Now Airbnb the Home of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Where the Author Wrote Tender Is the Night

Photo by George F. Landegger, via Wikimedia Commons

F. Scott Fitzgerald started writing in earnest at Princeton University, several of whose literary and cultural societies he joined after enrolling in 1913. So much of his time did he devote to what would become his vocation that he eventually found himself on academic probation. Still, he kept on writing novels even after dropping out and joining the Army in 1917. He wrote hurriedly, with the prospect of being shipped out to the trenches hanging over his head, but that grim fate never arrived. Instead the Army transferred him to Camp Sheridan outside Montgomery, Alabama, at one of whose country clubs young Scott met a certain Zelda Sayre, the "golden girl" of Montgomery society.

With his sights set on marriage, Scott spent several years after the war trying to earn enough money to make a credible proposal. Only the publication of This Side of Paradise, his debut novel about a literarily minded student at Princeton in wartime, convinced Zelda that he could maintain the lifestyle to which she had become accustomed. Between 1921, when they married, and 1948, by which time both had died, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald lived an occasionally productive, often miserable, and always intensely compelling life together. The story of this early cultural "power couple" has an important place in American literary history, and Fitzgerald enthusiasts can now use Airbnb to spend the night in the home where one of its chapters played out.




The rentable apartment occupies part of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Museum in Montgomery, an operation run out of the house in which the Fitzgeralds lived in 1931 and 1932. For the increasingly troubled Zelda, those years constituted time in between hospitalizations. She had come from the Swiss sanatorium that diagnosed her with schizophrenia. She would afterward go to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where she would write an early version of her only novel Save Me the Waltz, a roman à clef about the Fitzgerald marriage. For Scott's part, the Montgomery years came in the middle of his work on Tender is the Night, the follow-up to The Great Gatsby for which critics had been waiting since that book's publication in 1925.

"The house dates to 1910," writes the Chicago Tribune's Beth J. Harpaz. "The apartment is furnished in casual 20th century style: sofa, armchairs, decorative lamps, Oriental rug, and pillows embroidered with quotes from Zelda like this one: 'Those men think I'm purely decorative and they're fools for not knowing better.'" Evocative features include "a record player and jazz albums, a balcony, and flowering magnolia trees in the yard." It may not offer the kind of space needed to throw a Gatsby-style bacchanal — to the endless relief, no doubt, of the museum staff — but at $150 per night as of this writing, travelers looking to get a little closer to these defining literary icons of the Jazz Age might still consider it a bargain. It also comes with certain modern touches that the Fitzgeralds could hardly have imagined, like wi-fi. But then, given the well-documented tendency toward distraction they already suffered, surely they were better off without it.

You can book your room at Airbnb here.

via Mental Floss

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Philip Roth (RIP) Creates a List of the 15 Books That Influenced Him Most

Image by Thierry Ehrmann, via Flickr Commons

We stand at a pivotal time in history, and not only when it comes to presidential politics and other tragedies. The boomer-era artists and writers who loomed over the last several decades—whose influence, teaching, or patronage determined the careers of hundreds of successors—are passing away. It seems that not a week goes by that we don’t mourn the loss of one or another towering figure in the arts and letters. And along with the eulogies and tributes come critical reappraisals of often straight white men whose sexual and racial politics can seem seriously problematic through a 21st century lens.

Surely such pieces are even now being written after the death of Philip Roth yesterday, novelist of, among many other themes, the unbridled straight male Id. From 1969’s sex-obsessed Alexander Portnoy—who masturbates with raw liver and screams at his therapist “LET’S PUT THE ID BACK IN YID!”—to 1995’s aging, sex-obsessed puppeteer Mickey Sabbath, who masturbates over his own wife’s grave, with several obsessive men like David Kepesh (who turns into a breast) in-between, Roth created memorably shocking, frustrated Jewish male characters whose sexuality might generously be described as selfish.




In a New York Times interview at the beginning of this year, Roth, who retired from writing in 2012, addressed the question of these “recurrent themes” in the era of Trump and #MeToo. “I haven’t shunned the hard facts in these fictions of why and how and when tumescent men do what they do, even when these have not been in harmony with the portrayal that a masculine public-relations campaign — if there were such a thing — might prefer.... Consequently, none of the more extreme conduct I have been reading about in the newspapers lately has astonished me.”

The psychological truths Roth tells about fitfully neurotic male egos don't flatter most men, as he points out, but maybe his depictions of obsessive male desire offer a sobering perspective as we struggle to confront its even uglier and more violent, boundary-defying irruptions in the real world. That said, many a writer after Roth handled the subject with far less humor and comic awareness of its bathos. From where did Roth himself draw his sense of the tragically absurd, his literary interest in extremes of human longing and its often-destructive expression?

He offered one collection of influences in 2016, when he pledged to donate his personal library of over 3,500 volumes to the Newark Public Library (“my other home”) upon his death. Along with that announcement, Roth issued a list of “fifteen works of fiction,” writes Talya Zax at Forward, “he considers most significant to his life.” Next to each title, he lists the age at which he first read the book.

“It’s worth noting,” Zax points out, “that Roth, who frequently fields accusations of misogyny, included only one female author on the list: Colette.” Make of that what you will. We might note other blind spots as well, but so it is. Should we read Philip Roth? Of course we should read Philip Roth, for his keen insights into varieties of American masculinity, Jewish identity, aging, American hubris, literary creativity, Wikipedia, and so much more besides, spanning over fifty years. Start at the beginning with two of his fist published stories from the late 50s, "Epstein" and "The Conversion of the Jews," and work your way up to the 21st century.

via The Forward

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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