Philip Roth’s Next Book and Biography: What’s Going On?

For we need Philip Roth to be on intimate terms with his biographer like we need a pyromaniac manning the graveyard shift over at the old Fireworks Factory down by the children’s hospital.

Defending Durkheim (the Hipster)

I too, admittedly, was once inclined to be vulgar. My early theory hero (or “Theoro”) was Max Weber, not his French contemporary. Two chance occurrences forced me to rethink my position. The first was a stray remark made by a beloved professor in grad school. During a lecture he commented that Durkheim was, by far, the strangest social theorist that he had ever read. “That guy,” he sighed, “is truly weird.”

Letting an Undergraduate Teach: The Counterlife

I spent weeks in isolation reading and re-reading that peculiar work (I did not think to consult the secondary literature). On lecture day, I emerged from my solitary confinement/refinement as if launched from a crack in the earth. Over-caffeinated and strung out on Chowards Violets I delivered a dense, careening, quasi-psychotic 75-minute oration. Its intellectual merits aside, the address somehow managed to infuriate every Jew, Christian and Muslim in class and more broadly across campus.

Professors and Children, a Tripartite Series

Part I: Enemies of Scholarship

Wasn’t there a real baby in the life of the great scholar? Why had we, in that torrent of conversations, never once discussed children?

Part II: The Coverage Breakdown

near iron law of coverage breakdowns lies in the odd fact that only one person actually bemoans them. That person would be you, professor. Rest assured that your kid is cool with it—I mean the cast of characters in your department is at least as entertaining as the colorful sea creatures they would otherwise be watching on “SpongeBob” or those indeterminate life forms which populate “Pokemon: Black and White.”

Part III: Things My Children Do

With the semester winding down, and the boy being an avid reader, he took the initiative, and refrained from indulging his passion for computer games such as “Roblox” (which he is forbidden to frequent for more than 15 minutes a night). Instead, he chose to pull a book off the literature-to be-read shelf in my room. He read the novel cover to cover in exactly three hours with a disturbingly demented grin on his little maw.


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