While the sword of posthumous cancellation hangs over the king of American letters, Philip Roth, there’s no better time to revisit his work.
‘Coleman had taken attendance at the beginning of the first several lectures so as to learn their names. As there were still two names that failed to elicit a response by the fifth week into the semester, Coleman, in the sixth week, opened the session by asking, ‘Does anyone know of these people? Do they exist or are they spooks?”’
‘Ninety-eight in New England was a summer of exquisite warmth and sunshine … and in America the summer of an enormous piety binge, a purity binge, when terrorism – which had replaced communism as the prevailing threat to the country’s security – was succeeded by cocksucking, and a virile, youthful middle-aged president and a brash, smitten twenty-one-year-old employee carrying on in the Oval Office like two teenage kids in a parking lot revived America’s oldest communal passion, historically perhaps its most treacherous and subversive pleasure: the ecstasy of sanctimony. In the Congress, in the press and on the networks, the righteous grandstanding creeps, crazy to blame, deplore, and punish, were everywhere out moralizing to beat the band: all of them in a calculated frenzy with what Hawthorne identified in the incipient country of long ago as ‘the persecuting spirit’; all of them eager to enact the astringent rituals of purification that would excise the erection from the executive branch ... No, if you haven’t lived through 1998, you don’t know what sanctimony is.”