'American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked' -- March 29 on PBS
By April MacIntyre Feb 12, 2013, 13:47 GMT
Tune in alert for "American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked" premiering nationwide Friday, March 29 at 9pm on PBS (check local listings) in honor of Roth\'s 80th birthday (3/19/1933).
Tune in alert for "American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked" premiering nationwide Friday, March 29 at 9pm on PBS (check local listings) in honor of Roth's 80th birthday (3/19/1933).
Roth announced his retirement from writing last year.
Explore the life of the Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning novelist, often referred to as the greatest living American writer. In candid interviews, Philip Roth discusses intimate aspects of his life and art as he has never done before: his unliterary upbringing in Newark, N.J., his writing process, the inspiration behind his most famous novels, and the many controversies he stirred throughout his career.
With 31 books to his credit, including Goodbye, Columbus; Portnoy's Complaint; Sabbath's Theater; American Pastoral; and The Human Stain, Roth practically invented the genre of factual-fictional autobiography and commands ownership of the Jewish-American novel. Interviews include Mia Farrow, Jonathan Franzen, Nicole Krauss, Nathan Englander, and The New Yorker's Claudia Roth Pierpont. 90 minutes. More film details are below.
In the film, Roth is candid about his unliterary 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).
Set against the backdrop of his times, American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked shares scenes from Roth’s daily routine, using images from his personal archives. Interviews include some of Roth’s oldest friends — Mia Farrow, who inspired part of his last novel Nemesis (2010), high school friend Dr. Bob Heyman, college friend Jane Brown Maas, and army comrade Martin Garbus — as well as The New Yorker’s literary critic and staff writer Claudia Roth Pierpont, and younger American writers Jonathan Franzen, Nicole Krauss and Nathan Englander.
“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,” says literary journalist Livia Manera, who co-directed and co-wrote American Masters Philip Roth: Unmasked with filmmaker William Karel.
“Ten days with Philip Roth, 12 hours of interviews: an opportunity that you seldom encounter twice in a lifetime. He was brilliant, funny, moving, lucid, and surprising,” says William Karel.
“The making of the documentary was made completely painless for me by William and Livia. Astonishingly, I actually enjoyed it and I don’t think I emerge as an entirely ridiculous figure,” admits Roth.
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 relationship 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.
“It is so gratifying and appropriate for American Masters to celebrate one of our greatest writers in tandem with his 80th birthday. Roth’s work, from the then-shocking Portnoy’s Complaint to the Zuckerman novels, defined a literary world for generations of readers. Hearing his own perspective about his craft is an extraordinary, and quite beautiful, experience,” says Susan Lacy, creator and executive producer of American Masters.