Prolific Author Philip Roth Dies At 85 Philip Roth, whose novel American Pastoral won a Pulitzer Prize in 1998 but who was best-known for the controversial and explicit 1969 Portnoy's Complaint, has died at age 85.
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Prolific Author Philip Roth Dies At 85

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Prolific Author Philip Roth Dies At 85

Prolific Author Philip Roth Dies At 85

Prolific Author Philip Roth Dies At 85

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Philip Roth, whose novel American Pastoral won a Pulitzer Prize in 1998 but who was best-known for the controversial and explicit 1969 Portnoy's Complaint, has died at age 85.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

He was considered one of the most important American writers of the 20th century, and he wrote a good deal in the 21st.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Philip Roth has died. As a novelist, he was creative and productive and provocative. He wrote for more than half a century. His breakthrough came in 1969 with a novel called "Portnoy's Complaint," the story of a young Jewish lawyer struggling to find his own sexual identity. The topic caused him some embarrassment when people seemed to think that he was the main character.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

PHILIP ROTH: During the months when the book was on the best-seller list and it was so notorious for being such a dirty book, a lot of people took it upon themselves to talk to me on the street. They would sometimes shout from automobiles. They'd say, hey, Portnoy, leave it alone (laughter). Now I was the butt of these jokes.

MARTIN: Maybe Roth was not the same as that character, but he often wrote about himself. Many of his novels were narrated by a novelist whose life seemed very much like that of the novelist who created him.

INSKEEP: Roth was born in Newark, N.J., in 1933. His middle-class Jewish upbringing played a big role in his fiction, and so did his interest in sex, which could be awkward to write about. But he just went with it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

ROTH: Do whatever you want to do. Let it be. Shame isn't for writers. You have to be shameless. You can't worry about being decorous. This doesn't mean that you have to be obscene and crazy and smear your pages with feces. That's not the point. But shame won't do.

INSKEEP: He was shameless but also acclaimed.

MARTIN: Roth received a Pulitzer Prize, National Book Awards and praise as one of the great American novelists of the post-war period.

(SOUNDBITE OF PAN AMERICAN'S "CLOUD ROOM")

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