I’ve never really liked Phillip Roth’s books. I’ve only read a few — American Pastoral, The Plot Against America, Portnoy’s Complaint — and find myself recalling  David Foster Wallace’s take on John Updike, who, along with Roth and their 20th  century American ilk, spent his time writing erudite, depressing novels about himself: “It never once occurs to him that the reason he’s so unhappy is that he’s an asshole.”

I bring it up because Roth has been awarded the International Man Booker prize, with some controversy after one of three judges walked out of the proceedings in protest. Good for her, frankly, regardless of your position on the merits of Roth’s work, literature could use some controversy and discord to slide it out of the senescence that characterizes most talk of novels — it seems like nobody really cares.

But the best Man Booker news this year was of John Le Carre, who was on the shortlist for the prize but withdrew so that “less established” authors could have a chance. Classy! I’ll take his work over Roth’s any day.


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