The Book That Made Me A Reader
Philip Roth on Thomas Wolfe
In 1949, when I was sixteen, I stumbled on Thomas Wolfe, who died at thirty-eight in 1938, and who made numerous adolescents aside from me devotees of literature for life. In Wolfe, everything was heroically outsized, whether it was the voracious appetite for experience of Eugene Gant, the hero of his first two novels, or of George Webber, the hero of his last two. The hero's loneliness, his egocentrism, his sprawling consciousness gave rise to a tone of elegiac lyricism that was endlessly sustained by the raw yearning for an epic existence--for an epic American existence. And, in those postwar years, what imaginative young reader didn't yearn for that?
Philip Roth burst onto the literary scene in 1959 with Goodbye, Columbus; with dozens of subsequent works, he has left an indelible mark. Roth's many major literary awards include a Pulitzer Prize, two National Book Awards, two National Book Critics Circle Awards, and three Pen/Faulkner Awards. His most recent book is Nemesis.