I'm with Maxine, too, and you, as well. I've never been able to get into Roth. I've often thought him highly overrated. Then again, I'm not an East Coast urban angst-ridden middle-aged male,
And I disagree entirely with you and Art. Roth is one of my all-time favourites. Lots of reasons, but I, as always, like to start with his mastery of sentences and register, tone and voice.
By the way, Art, the latest paean to Roth that I've heard was from a 24-year-old immigrant to Germany from the Ukraine, admittedly male, but neither angst-ridden nor middle-aged. And yes, he reads him in English.I suppose you're jesting. Otherwise, which of us would read Tolstoy except 19thc aristocrats or Borges except urban middle-class Argentinians?
It is notable, I think, that Roth is quite popular in Germany. And I hasten to add that in saying I am not a Roth fan I do not mean to suggest that he is not a good, even great writer. I don't especially like Huckleberry Finn, either. Some readers just don't connect with some writers or some books.
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It is notable that Roth is popular where there are good readers. As to whether he's particularly popular in Germany, I have no idea. The young man I mentioned studied graphic arts in Moscow and has an M.A. from Cambridge University.
I'm not a Roth fan either. I was rooting for Amin Maalouf to take the prize.
So, what, I'm dumb for not liking Roth? LOL Please. I've worked in graphics arts for 30 years, although I never went to Cambridge, not even to visit.What I can't relate to in Roth is the situations, the plots, or the characters. it's not my world, and I can't find myself able to care about the trials and tribulations of people I don't like very much. I never said Roth was a bad writer, although I stand by my opinion that he's overrated, just that there's nothing for me to hang onto, or care about, in his novels. If I don't care about a character or their lives, if they're not real to me, then it doesn't matter how "good" the writing is, I don't care. I know that I'm no different than any other reader, who also needs a reason to care about the characters. Fortunately there are all kinds of writers available for all kinds of readers. Not all writers appeal to all readers, nor should they. The idea that I MUST like Roth, or any other writer, is ridiculous—but that's what most the over-praising comes down to. I don't like Cormac McCarthy's books either, and for similar reasons.I enjoy Tolstoy because he makes me care about his people. I enjoy Pasternak even more than Tolstoy, because Pasternak makes me care about his characters AND he asks big questions about how to life live as an artist. (Thomas Merton wrote a long essay about Pasternak in his book "Disputed Questions" thought ought to be required reading.) A lot of this really DOES get down to the level of writers telling each other what they should like. Which is only one step away from telling them how they should write. Which is also ridiculous.
Art, I haven't called you dumb - nor anyone else, though there are certainly dumb ways to criticise - but yes, I do believe that there are literary criteria which go beyond caring for characters in a piece of fiction, and these criteria are important to recognise and appreciate. Your emphasis on caring about a character is just as prescriptive as the approaches you profess to disdain. It's not a matter of appeal. It's not a matter of liking or even taste. And no, it's not dumb - but I'm willing to claim, frankly and in public, that it's shortsighted.