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Friday, 07 September 2012


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This reminds me of a Lewis Black bit where he talks about having to audition for a role in a sitcom based on himself, and he later got a call that the producers decided to go with someone else -- "Unbeknownst to me, there was a better me out there."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't George Herriman ("Krazy Kat") also a Creole who passed? From what I remember, he used to pass as Greek, and at one point during the Great Depression, he was earning more off his comics than the POTUS earned as POTUS.



You're right about Herriman. I liked that his always-wears-his-hat-so-you-can't-see-his-kinky-hair schtick actually worked for his entire life. He was a true pioneer of the Never Nude Movement.


Thanks for this post, it's an interesting back and forth and not one I would have payed attention to otherwise.

Personally my initial reaction is to be happy to see Roth putting his views on record. I think they should be cited in the wikipedia entry, and I find it a satisfying element of the story that he was able to find a way to publish his letter so that it would meet the citation criteria.

So I'm not entirely convinced by this sentence, "It doesn’t matter when he learned about Broyard: he was still living and writing in a moment that was informed by the disclosure." But I will mull it over.


Wikipedia is not what most people think Wikipedia is. (Although I wonder to what degree these kinds of editorial issues are localized to a limited number of subject areas.)

With that in mind, this post didn't end the way I was expecting it to. (Which is a compliment.)


I get the spirit of this but I think you're wrong at the end. If Roth had identified the book's inspiration in an interview, or a foreword to a new edition of the book, or something, that would surely have made it into Wikipedia. What does it matter that his essay was targeted directly at Wikipedia, rather than at the reading public as is usually the case?

bianca steele

Roth’s letter is an attempt to deny that the world in which he lives defines him. That also happens to be the central theme in The Human Stain.

Hi Scott:
I read this at Lawyers, Guns, and Money but figure you're more likely to read a late comment here.

Do you really mean that first sentence--do you really mean that we can't distinguish Roth's inspiration in writing the book from how the book is read? And that this is compatible with what Kakutani, Taylor, or Moore said?

I ask this fully agreeing that you have a point, and that Roth (not because writing about real people has come up with him before, not because I dislike Roth, but for more complicated reasons) is not the first person I'd defend on the point of not seeing the irony here.

Also, if you were going to distinguish intention from reception, how is Kakutani's review a secondary source?

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