Playful & Serious: Philip Roth as a Comic Writer

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240 x 160 mm. 280pp ... [In stock in Australia, for immediate delivery]

Few contemporary American writers have stirred the minds and emotions of their readers as Philip Roth has done. Even fewer writers have excelled in various forms of the comic as Roth has for over a half-century.

Playful and Serious assembles a group of outstanding Roth scholars and critics who focus their attention on the different ways Roth brings his comic tendencies to bear on essentially serious topics.

The term 'comic' is used in the broadest sense to include humour, irony, satire, comedy, black comedy, and their variations. As co-editor Ben Siegel points out, Roth's special humour often appears to grow 'more surrealistic and obsessive, as in each new fiction he tries not merely to surpass the daily news but to touch what is deeply private and dark in the modern psyche'. In the process, he targets 'his society's most deeply embedded pieties and hypocrisies, enthusiasms, and lunacies'.

This collection takes account of the majority of Roth's works, beginning with some of his earliest stories and ending with several of his most recent novels. It also includes an account of several relatively neglected works, such as 'Novotny's Pain' and 'On the Air', but the essays in this volume deal mainly with the major works of fiction. They clearly show how Roth's interest in comedy has evolved from the outrageous but nonetheless hilarious comedy of Portnoy's Complaint to the more profoundly comic aspects of The Human Stain and subsequent novels. While death has increasingly become a preoccupation of those latest novels, Roth has not lost his ability to show how tragedy and comedy interact in, for example, Indignation.

While many writers tend to repeat themselves as they mature and grow older, this is clearly not the case with Philip Roth. From his earliest successes - Goodbye. Columbus won him his first National Book Award when he was only 29 years old - to his most recent novels, he shows a continuous development, particularly in his grasp of comedy in all its dimensions. A major turning point appears to have come after Sabbath's Theater. It was followed by his so-called American trilogy, beginning with American Pastoral and concluding with The Human Stain.

While there are a few episodes of humour in these novels, the basis of the comedy latterly depends more on Roth's use of irony rather than excess, the source of much of his earlier comedy. Having achieved enormous success as a sit-down (or stand-up) comedian, Roth deepened his sense of the comic in his later novels, as the essays in this volume demonstrate.

Ben Siegel is Emeritus Professor of English, California State University, Pomona. Jay L. Halio is Emeritus Professor of English, University of Delaware.
^ Literary Criticism ^


SKU 9780874130942
Barcode # 9780874130942
Brand AUP
Artist / Author Ben SIEGEL & Jay L. HALIO (editors)

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