Me Too Movement Targets Late Author Philip Roth for Alleged Misogyny

Novelist Philip Roth stands during a ceremony at the White House in Washington, DC, March 2, 2011, where he recieved the National Humanities Medal. AFP Photo/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

The late and often controversial author Philip Roth is now the target of cancel culture after biographers alleged some of his writings were misogynistic.

Roth, even before his death in 2018, fielded accusations of antisemitism over his portrayal of Jews, though his family was Jewish.

Now, his depiction of women is under scrutiny, and not for the first time.

“Two separate biographers have claimed revelations of his real life ‘sex and depravity’ could spur a reassessment of work and depictions of women,” the Times of London reported.”

The Daily Mail reported on the development:

Ira Nadel, author of Philip Roth: A Counterlife, wrote that he was “as sexually obsessed in real life as he was in literature,” the outlet reported. Nadel’s biography, set for release on March 29, “offers a full account of his development as a writer,” according to publisher notes on Amazon.

Blake Bailey, for his authorized Philip Roth: The Biography, received independence and complete access from the author himself to spend years pouring over his personal archive and interviewing his friends and lovers.

In his book, Bailey claims Roth visited London brothels and chose female students to attend a seminar based on their attractiveness and flirts with younger women the older he gets, according to the Times of London. In a visit to London, Roth allegedly went looking for Chinese prostitutes on Curzon Street in Soho.

“God, I’m fond of adultery,” Roth said in the Mail report. He was married and divorced twice to Margaret Martinson and actress Claire Bloom.

Bloom wrote a memoir “Leaving a Doll House, in which she noted his effort to control her every move and decision. She called him a self-centered misogynist and that he was a man with “a deep and irrepressible rage” toward women.

But Roth might mount a defense from the grave.

Sandra Newman, an American novelist, told the Times that another fight over his work is due and that modern audiences will be less forgiving for the misogyny in both his life and writing.

“Looked at from the point of view today, the books are on the wrong side of MeToo,” Newman said. “They often have a central male who is a victim of cancel culture.”

When asked by the Times if he believed Roth would ever get cancelled.

“You never know these days,” Bailey said. “But I think there will always be an audience for Roth’s work in certain quarters, and a non-audience in others.”

“I hope my biography helps Roth’s image; though it doesn’t spare his lapses, it does portray him as a rather touching human versus a label of whatever sort,” Bailey said.

Novelist Dana Horn wrote about Roth in an article in the New York Times after his death.

“Roth’s three favorite topics — Jews, women and New Jersey — all remain socially acceptable targets of irrational public mockery, and Roth was a virtuoso at mocking the combination of all three,” Horn wrote. “Roth, who achieved true greatness in depicting people like himself, never had the imagination to give these women souls.”

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