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Tom Wolfe & Philip Roth, RIP


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Tom Wolfe is gone at age 88.

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As for his remarkable attire, he called it “a harmless form of aggression.”

“I found early in the game that for me there’s no use trying to blend in,” he told The Paris Review. “I might as well be the village information-gatherer, the man from Mars who simply wants to know. Fortunately the world is full of people with information-compulsion who want to tell you their stories. They want to tell you things that you don’t know.”

 

Wolfe describes growing up in Richmond.

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As the thirties wore on, more and more houses were built on Gloucester, Loxley, and Brookland Parkway, and there were more and more children to play with. I remember the neighborhood as absolute paradise for children. This may be the Old Oak Bucket delusion, but that's the way I remember it. There was so little traffic on Gloucester and Loxley we could ride our bicycles day and night, which we did, including the night. One of my fondest memories is of my friends and I riding our bicycles, balloon-tire, of course, along Loxley Road at night while the fireflies twinkled among the mimosa blossoms. I hope the mimosa trees are still there.......

Obit for Roth, who was 85, in the NYT.

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Philip Milton Roth was born in Newark on March 19, 1933, the younger of two sons. (His brother, Sandy, a commercial artist, died in 2009.) His father, Herman, was an insurance manager for Metropolitan Life who felt that his career had been thwarted by the gentile executives who ran the company. Mr. Roth once described him as a cross between Captain Ahab and Willy Loman. His mother, the former Bess Finkel, was a secretary before she married and then became a housekeeper of the heroic old school — the kind, he once suggested, who raised cleaning to an art form.

 

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I enjoyed many of Wolfe's early writings. And they remain an interesting snapshot of 1960s culture. He wan an odd bird - his own personality contrasting greatly with the subjects he chose to write about.
RIP, Tom Wolfe.

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A biography of Roth is out.

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When Roth died at age eighty-five in 2018, Dwight Garner wrote in the New York Times that it was the end of a cultural era. Roth was “the last front-rank survivor of a generation of fecund and authoritative and, yes, white and male novelists.” Never mind that at least four other major American novelists born in the 1930s—DeLillo, McCarthy, Morrison, Pynchon—were still alive. Forget about pigeonholing as white and male an author who at the beginning of his career was invited to sit beside Ralph Ellison on panels about “minority writing”—because Jews were still at the margins. 

 

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