American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked , a 90-minute documentary airing Friday, March 29 at 8:00 p.m., on KUED, features Roth freely discussing very intimate aspects of his life and art as he has never done before.
In the film, Roth is candid about his upbringing in Newark, New Jersey, his writing process, his psychoanalysis and the inspiration behind his most famous characters — Nathan Zuckerman, David Kepesh, Alexander Portnoy and Mickey Sabbath — and his historical novels such as I Married a Communist (1998) and The Plot Against America (2004).
Literary journalist, Livia Manera co-wrote and directed the film. She said this of Roth: “Just before Roth publicly declared he had stopped writing, we filmed him at home and at work, in the streets of New York and in the countryside. But mostly, we let him talk. He spoke of his family, his fantasies, his obsessions, Jewish humor, the many controversies he stirred, the turmoil of sex, love, the writers he admired, fame, depression, old age, illness and death — all the while reading to us from his own books and enjoying the natural flow of the conversation."
Goodbye, Columbus (1959), his collection of short stories, put the 26-year-old author on the map. Ten years later, Roth’s hilarious, ribald bestseller Portnoy’s Complaint (1969) propelled him into an international scandalous spotlight: the first of many controversies in which Judaism, sex, the role of women and the parent-child relationships would take center stage.
Yet, he steadily earned his reputation as a man of letters, commanding ownership of the Jewish-American novel and making Newark a literary destination. Practically inventing the genre of factual-fictional autobiography, Roth’s thinly veiled Zuckerman books follow the protagonist’s path from aspiring young writer to compromised celebrity and, most recently, older man facing death. Roth’s career was considered declining by 1990 and then exploded with a dozen bestsellers in the past two decades, including Sabbath’s Theater (1995), American Pastoral (1997) and The Human Stain (2000). With 31 books to his credit, Roth has won every possible literary award short of the Nobel Prize.
Dangerous Edge: A Life of Graham Greene uses Greene’s words from his books and recordings, as well as photographs and clips from his many films, to reveal the enigmatic life of a great writer. A stellar group of writers and critics, scholars and spies, friends and foes provide a kaleidoscopic view of the world of Graham Greene that airs Friday, March 29 at 9:30 p.m. on KUED.
Greene’s 50 books spanned seven decades and sold tens of millions of copies in countless languages. More than 100 of his stories have been adapted for television, theater and film — some, such as The Quiet American and The End of the Affair, twice.
As a journalist for 60 years, Greene covered the most dangerous events of the past century: Kenya’s Mau Mau Rebellion, the Vietnam War, Haiti’s “nightmare republic,” the rise of Castro and the fall of the Soviet Union.
Greene’s writing captures the essence of what it means to be human: the struggle between faith and doubt, love and betrayal, action and inaction, the individual and the state. Greene famously warned writers to avoid personal, political and ideological ties. A writer must “have a sliver of ice in his heart,” he said, and “be a piece of grit in the State machinery.”
After Greene’s death in 1991, Paul Gray wrote in Time magazine, “No serious writer of the 20th century has more thoroughly influenced the public imagination than Graham Greene.”
While Greene’s work and influence are apparent, Greene remains an enigma. Despite repeated suicide attempts, he lived to be 86. He was a British spy who befriended traitor Kim Philby. He was a committed Catholic who referred to himself as a “Catholic agnostic.” He craved anonymity, yet his writing made him famous.
Greene attributed such incongruities to manic depression. Rather than allowing his condition to cripple him, however, he channeled it into enormous creativity, and from his death wish ultimately sprang an acute awareness of the value of life.
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