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The Updike Beck books


John Updike: ‘He rarely made a vulgar error’
Philip Roth Writer
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One evening on the Vineyard that summer, I guess it was the summer of '66, we were all together at dinner at a mutual friend's house and we got to talking as we did that summer all the time about Vietnam and airing our grievances.  And to my surprise, John didn't have any grievances about Vietnam.  He supported the war in Vietnam.  And we got into an argument.  It was civil.  There was no shouting but it was... it was strenuous and I... look, I was trying to straighten him out.  He was trying to straighten me out.  And what happened is that that dialogue between us turned up in Rabbit Redux and my words are put into... into the mouth of his black hero who's a... who's a kind of revolutionary.  I forget what his name is.  And so, as I was saying earlier, nothing got by him.  Nothing was wasted.  Everything went through... through this transformation and he had this... tremendous fiction-making faculty and he had a sure hand, he... he rarely made a vulgar error.

The fame of the American writer Philip Roth (1933-2018) rested on the frank explorations of Jewish-American life he portrayed in his novels. There is a strong autobiographical element in much of what he wrote, alongside social commentary and political satire. Despite often polarising critics with his frequently explicit accounts of his male protagonists' sexual doings, Roth received a great many prestigious literary awards which include a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1997, and the 4th Man Booker International Prize in 2011.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Vietnam War, Rabbit Redux, John Updike

Duration: 1 minute, 39 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2011

Date story went live: 18 March 2013