Philip Roth Will Not Be Here Saturday Night. Just His Work.


We’re sorry.

Although really it is the Washington Post’s fault. For some reason they thought that Philip Roth would be attending the Opening Night of the Hyman S. and Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival, which every year offers staged dramatic readings of work by some of the finest Jewish authors. One year we saluted Saul Bellow and Arthur Miller (both had recently passed away, they were not in-attendance either). One year we focused on stories about Jewish Urban Life. Last year we focused on Jewish Humor in Short Stories. This year we are honoring the 50th Anniversary of Roth’s groundbreaking novella Goodbye Columbus with dramatic adaptions from that and some of his other work, performed by four of Washington’s best actors.

So you should still come. Here’s why.

Philip won’t be there, but Neil Klugman will be. And Alexander Portnoy. And a version of the Philip Roth that appears in books like Patrimony and The Facts. The evening will be a way of looking at the work of an author widely acknowledged as one of the greatest writers of the last 50 years.

In the end it is the writing, and not the writer that matters most.

So we’re sorry if you are disappointed that Philip Roth won’t be there. In our defense, in none of our materials did we claim he would be — not even metaphorically — present. But we’ve got plenty of other writers who actually will be here, live and in the flesh, over the next two weeks. Great writers like Zoe Heller and Dara Horn and Binnie Kirshenbaum; important works of non-fiction about art in the Great Depression, the birth of Barbie, surviving infertility, a biography of Louis Brandeis and the amazing but true story of how the Israeli secret-service captured Adolf Eichmann.

The writer for the next 50 years is quite likely among our offerings. So, this is not how we wanted to get your attention. But since we now have it… you should come. Philip would want it that way.

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