Very little truthfulness anywhere, antagonism everywhere, so much calculated to disgust, the gigantic hypocrisies, no holding fierce passions at bay, the ordinary viciousness you can see just by pressing the remote, explosive weapons in the hands of creeps, the gloomy tabulation of unspeakable violent events, the unceasing despoliation of the biosphere for profit, surveillance overkill that will come back to haunt us, great concentrations of wealth financing the most undemocratic malevolents around, science illiterates still fighting the Scopes trial 89 years on, economic inequities the size of the Ritz, indebtedness on everyone’s tail, families not knowing how bad things can get, money being squeezed out of every last thing — that frenzy — and (by no means new) government hardly by the people through representative democracy but rather by the great financial interests, the old American plutocracy worse than ever.
Last Sunday, the New York Times Book Review published an interview Roth did with Daniel Sandstrom in Svenska Dagbladet, a Swedish newspaper. I finally got around to reading it and boy, is it a doozy. The paragraph quoted above is one of the most eloquent summations of modern America that I’ve ever seen—and the paragraph preceding it explains why he brings it up in the first place. And there’s a tremendous breakdown at the end about what novels actually tell us about the person who wrote them that I certainly agree with.