In Philip Roth's intimate intellectual encounters with an international and diverse cast of writers, they explore the importance of region, politics, and history in their work and trace the imaginative path by which a writer's highly individualised art is informed by the wider conditions of life. With Primo Levi, Roth discusses the stubborn core of rationality that helped the Italian chemist-writer survive the demented laboratory of Auschwitz. With Milan Kundera, he analyses the mix of politics and sexuality that made him a subversive write in communist Czechoslovakia. With Edna O'Brien, he explores the circumstances that have forced generations of Irish writers into exile. Elsewhere Roth offers appreciative portraits of two friends - the writer Bernard Malamud and the painter Philip Guston - at the end of their careers, and gives us a masterful assessment of the work of Saul Bellow. Intimate, charming and crackling with ideas about the interplay between imagination and the writer's historical situation, Shop Talk is a literary symposium of the highest level.
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(198mm x 130mm x 12mm)
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
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UK Kirkus Review »
Philip Roth is the ideal focus of this most intriguing of books. Recently the recipient of four major American literary honours, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1997, he here enters into debate with some of the world's leading authors and the result is an engrossing, deeply thought-provoking volume that goes to the very heart of what it is to be a writer. The central question at the core of the book essentially asks how literatures form in a writer's mind, specifically in the context of the way a creative person's imagination is stimulated by the outside world and their immediate environment. The largest section of the book is a dialogue between Roth and several of his fellow writers presented in a simple interview mode that works beautifully, allowing readers to feel as if they are sitting in the same room, raptly listening to masters of their art in conversation. In a series of conversations spanning decades, Roth talks to Italy's Primo Levi, to Czechoslovakia's Milan Kundera and Ivan Klima and Ireland's Edna O'Brien amongst others as politics, region and history come under scrutiny; the key focus being the way a writer's individual path is forged from the broader canvas of the outside world. With writers like Levi, Appelfeld and Klima, all of whom experienced the concentration camps, the subject of the Holocaust is a common thread. Often forced into exile, these men discuss the notion of homeland and dislocation; the whole nature of what constitutes identity gradually evolves as the book's leitmotif. It's an admirable study of the imaginative impulse filtered through the lens of time and place and is utterly captivating in its intensity. Roth's own prose occasionally tends towards the over-cerebral, but he also has the wisdom bestowed by a long and distinguished literary life. Two concise - if rather superfluous - portraits of artists whom Roth admires conclude an intellectually invigorating - and humane - book that will appeal to anyone who's ever wondered about the way writers relate to the world, both in terms of their own evolution and as reflections of the society that shapes them. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Philip Roth
In 1997, Philip Roth won the Pulitzer Prize for American Pastoral. In 1998 he received the National Medal of Arts at the White House and in 2002 the highest award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Gold Medal in Fiction, previously awarded to John Dos Passos, William Faulkner and Saul Bellow, among others. He has twice won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has won the PEN/Faulkner Award three times. In 2005 The Plot Against America received the Society of American Historians' Prize for "the outstanding historical novel on an American theme for 2003-2004." Recently Roth received PEN's two most prestigious prizes: in 2006 the PEN/Nabokov Award 'for a body of work...of enduring originality and consummate craftmanship' and in 2007 the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for achievement in American Fiction, given to a writer whose 'scale of achievement over a sustained career...places him or her in the highest rank of American literature.' Roth is the only living American writer to have his work published in a comprehensive, definitive edition by the Library of America. The last of the eight volumes is scheduled for publication in 2013.