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Roth’s Novel

In response to:

The Sporting News from the May 31, 1973 issue

To the Editors:

Nobody would ever think of assigning an actor to review another actor’s work, so it’s bewildering to find a histrionic writer like William Gass let loose on Philip Roth’s new book [NYR, May 31]. The reviewer’s obvious effort to outperform his subject made the first part of his article almost totally incoherent, and the last paragraph (where he finally added a judgment to his performance) more than a little mean and envious. There is much that might be said about The Great American Novel, both in its favor and against it, but I do not think it is permissible to imply that it was among a number of books written by “small boys.” It is not at all surprising, at a time when American writers are being encouraged to display their performing selves, to find Mr. Gass engaged in his own form of exhibitionism. But to choose a metaphor more appropriate for the occasion, this looked like the case of a pitcher from the minor leagues trying to hit a major leaguer with a beanball.

Robert Brustein

London, England

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