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Eck Center broadcasts interview with author

Justin Tardiff | Wednesday, September 17, 2008

An interview about the new novel, Indignation, written by Pulitzer Prize winning author Phillip Roth was broadcast in the Eck Center Auditorium Tuesday.

Fellow author Benjamin Taylor asked Roth questions regarding the novel and his inspiration for past works during the interview that included some reader submitted questions from select universities and bookstores across the country.

Indignation, Roth’s 29th novel, is a story about a passionate young man named Marcus Messner who is recounting his life against the backdrop of the Korean War.

Many of Roth’s works have dealt with a particular time in American history though he said the manner in which Indignation came to be was somewhat different than his previous works.

“I did not really have a story in mind,” Roth said. “I just had a period, and that period happened to be the Korean War.”

Roth, was entering his freshmen year of college when the Korean War broke out.

He said it is impossible for him to look back on his college years and not think of, what he called, America’s “Forgotten War.”

“Here in America, people were not totally mesmerized by a war that we were not fully engaged in as we had been during World War II,” Roth said. “One of the things that prompted me to put this particular book together was that younger people have no idea what the social, cultural, and sexual norms of the 1950s were.”

Many of the questions submitted by viewers at other universities and bookstores focused on Roth’s writing style and how his work appears to parallel or comment on today’s politics, something he said he never plans to do.

“I never intentionally relate my books to the events of today,” he said. “I’m focused on the time period that I have chosen to write about. If I wanted the book to be about something else then I would have chosen to write about something else.”

Roth said he has come to think of himself of a historian of sorts because most of his books deal with a specific time in American history.

“I let the American past flow into the story. I allow historical events determine the lives of characters,” he said. “When I write I start with virtually nothing. Sometimes I’ve started with a period and I try to find the story that I can tell that will somehow give a flavor of that moment in time.”