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Are We at War with England Now?

Have you read this article about judge withdrawing over Philip Roth’s International Booker win? I find it outrageous. Author and publisher Carmen Callil, whom I have previously never heard of, withdrew from the judge panel over its decision to honor the American author.

The matter turned ugly and scandalous following these comments of Ms. Callil. “I don’t rate him as a writer at all. I made it clear that I wouldn’t have put him on the longlist, so I was amazed when he stayed there. He was the only one I didn’t admire – all the others were fine,” said Callil, who will explain why she believes Roth is not a worthy winner in an outspoken column in the Guardian Review on Saturday 21 May.

It’s verbal assault. Callil sounds very parochial to me. She simply doesn’t like what Philip Roth writes about. Although not every novel by Roth is great, he’s a competent and brilliant author. I can’t judge a judge on her artistic or creative opinions–for opinions are what they are, subjective. Callil has every right to find Philip Roth’s novels terrible. But I do object, very strongly, to a rather naive and simplistic remark she made about his work: ‘he goes on and on and on about the same subject in almost every single book.’ Since when was a writer returning to the same subject deemed a bad thing? Think Toni Morrison. I have to categorize this post under “madness.”

6 Responses

  1. Not a worthy winner? I could understand if this was his first major literary award, but seriously Roth has won so many major literary awards that I think it’s pretty dubious for her to claim that she believes his work won’t be read 20 years from now.

  2. I also wonder how much this has to do with her self-identifying as a feminist. Roth isn’t exactly a feminist friendly writer.

  3. She is the editor of Virago Books which features re-prints of books by women for the most part. I think she has made a mockery of herself here. Look at who did end up on the short list. Roth can stand toe-to-toe with any of them.

    She may just be looking for publicity, she’ll certainly get it, but I find her behavior unprofessional at best.

  4. I read that article and wondered what crawled up her bum and died!

  5. Meh, I’m not a big Roth fan so I can sort of see where she’s coming from, though, I do think she needs to settle down a bit and accept that this is the will of the rest of the judges.

  6. As you said, she is certainly entitled to her opinion, but to make such remarks…they bordered on rude. I mean, as a judge, you don’t want to burn any bridges with someone who will be writing books for many years to come. Her comments were completely unprofessional. She obviously has a personal issue with him.

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