Wednesday, May 23, 2018

roth: a thad loth

Today sees the Curse Of Electric Halibut in particularly deadly form, as we learn of the death of American novelist Philip Roth. Roth was the last living member of the trio of white male American novelists often mentioned in the same breath - John Updike and Saul Bellow being the other two - and who were often held up as the pinnacle of American late-20th-century literature. Note that I'm not saying I think this was a justified view, as admirable as they all are individually - it's very white-male-centric and no doubt Toni Morrison and Joyce Carol Oates, not to mention Marilynne Robinson, Anne Tyler and Alison Lurie, would have something to say about it, as would countless others not featured on this blog.

Anyway, my review of The Human Stain from last December did contain the throwaway observation that "Roth's days on this earth are of course now numbered". That is of course trivially true for anyone who's not already dead, but since he was 84 at the time it seemed a reasonably safe bet. Well, that number turned out to be five months almost to the day, which gave him time to celebrate his 85th birthday in March, but not much else. Even the value in the "Curse length" field (the second-shortest one in the list after Michael Dibdin) in the updated table below seems to act as a final Jewish kvetch against the injustice of it all: "Oy! 150d?"

Author Date of first book Date of death Age Curse length
Michael Dibdin 31st January 2007 30th March 2007 60 0y 59d
Beryl Bainbridge 14th May 2008 2nd July 2010 77 2y 50d
Russell Hoban 23rd August 2010 13th December 2011 86 1y 113d
Richard Matheson 7th September 2011 23rd June 2013 87 1y 291d
Elmore Leonard April 16th 2009 20th August 2013 87 4y 128d
Iain Banks 6th November 2006 9th June 2013 59 6y 218d
Doris Lessing 8th May 2007 17th November 2013 94 6y 196d
Gabriel García Márquez 10th July 2007 17th April 2014 87 6y 284d
Ruth Rendell 23rd December 2009 2nd May 2015 85 5y 132d
James Salter 4th February 2014 19th June 2015 90 1y 136d
Henning Mankell 6th May 2013 5th October 2015 67 2y 152d
Umberto Eco 30th June 2012 19th February 2016 84 3y 234d
Anita Brookner 15th July 2011 10th March 2016 87 4y 240d
William Trevor 29th May 2010 20th November 2016 88 6y 177d
John Berger 10th November 2009 2nd January 2017 90 7y 55d
Nicholas Mosley 24th September 2011 28th February 2017 93 5y 159d
Helen Dunmore 10th March 2008 5th June 2017 64 9y 89d
JP Donleavy 21st May 2015 11th September 2017 91 2y 114d
Ursula Le Guin 6th December 2015 22nd January 2018 88 2y 49d
Philip Roth 23rd December 2017 22nd May 2018 85 0y 150d