Tuesday, July 31, 2012

An Open Letter to Philip Roth

Dear Philip,

I haven't read much of your work, but I hear you're a pretty fine writer.  I finally got around to reading Portnoy’s Complaint (It only took me forty five years), and I'm not so sure.  To your credit, you wrote some seriously beautiful sentences about splooge, but other than you jerking off, not much happened.  What was the point of that book?  To show people how much you like to jerk off?   They say to write what you know, so I guess you don't get out much. 

I prefer books where things happen. I read a story the other day about a woman who had sex with a dinosaur.  It wasn't as erotic as you might think.  Well, you might think so, but then you're a pervert.  Am I right?

In a way, though, I was impressed by your book.  I don’t think I could write a book about masturbating.  Not that there was anything erotic about Portnoy, but to write about masturbating, I think, would lead to thinking about the things you think about when you masturbate, and pretty soon you've stopped writing and... Excuse me for a second. 

OK, I’m back.  What were we talking about?  Oh yeah, your books.  I read about half of American Pastoral before I thought about killing myself.  I’m a little surprised you didn’t win the Pulitzer Prize for Boring.  

I also read a bit of Letting Go, but I kept thinking about the title and after a few pages I was convinced. 

OK, that’s not true.  I didn’t read any of it.  I did read a review of Letting Go written by Norman Mailer and published in a 1963 issue of Esquire Magazine I found in a dumpster. (I was looking for educational material.  By that I mean porn.  Speaking of, you must have studied in a few dumpsters yourself while working on Portnoy.  Am I right?)  Anyway, Mailer offered up a pretty well-reasoned review.  He effectively convinced me not only to hate your novel, but also to hate every other novel not written by Norman Mailer.

Speaking of, I don’t want you to think I’m one of these young people these days with a toddler’s attention span.  I made it through all fifteen thousand pages of The Executioner’s Song, but then, in that book I knew up front someone was going to get shot at the end.  I think some of your books might benefit from a little bit more action.  No.  Not that kind of action.  You pervert.  Speaking of which… Uh Oh.  Excuse me for a sec…

OK, I’m back.  What were we talking about?  Oh yeah.  Esquire.  Tell me, when did that rag turn into a gay men’s magazine?  I started flipping through a recent copy, and I swear the first fifty pages was nothing but brick-jawed stud muffins modeling the latest fashions.  If you ask me there should be less rippling muscles and testosterone and more… Uh Oh…

Hey, I’m back.  Say, Phil.  I read somewhere you don't read fiction.  I like fiction, but I think if you were the only author I read, I'd stop reading fiction too.   Am I right?  

I have a lot of other criticisms of your work, but they'll have to wait for another letter.  I don’t know what’s gotten into me.  Suddenly, I’m feeling pretty sleepy.  I hope you don’t mind.   Until next time,

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