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In Which Philip Roth Gave Me Life Advice

December 25, 2012 | by

A bialy.

We’re out this week, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2012 while we’re away. We hope you enjoy—and have a happy New Year!

Roughly two weeks ago in the dining room of a Jewish deli on the Upper West Side (whose name, for legal reasons, must remain undisclosed) I served Philip Roth his usual nova, eggs, and onions (egg whites only); a bialy (hold the cream cheese and butter); and a large, fresh-squeezed orange juice. He was once a more regular patron, but I hadn’t seen Roth at the deli for nearly a year—he does reside in Connecticut—and during the last two months I’d been looking forward to his arrival with heightened anticipation. With my debut novel, Balls, now published, I would conquer my nerves and give him a copy. Sure, many months before I had heard him say in an interview that he no longer read fiction. But his reading the book was not the point: having worshiped at the Roth altar for more than half of my thirty-three years, it was simply something that had to be done. And here was my chance.

He was seated alone at a table, reading on an iPhone and awaiting his check. I approached Roth with less trepidation than I had anticipated, given that in past years, the author’s presence had been enough to make me physically ill and render my hands so shaky that I would drop plates, spill coffee, trip on air. He looked … well, he looked like Roth: ruddy skinned, dark eyes stoical, bushy eyebrows untamed, shoulders back in a noble posture.Read More »

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