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Wednesday, October 10, 2007 1:53 pm
And Then He Did the Old Soft Shoe
Posted by: Keir Graff

Talk about surprised expectations, Hermione Lee’s (Edith Wharton) prologue to her conversation with Philip Roth (Exit Ghost) closes with a surprising paragraph (the interview is from the New Yorker ["Age Makes a Difference"] but the introduction is only in the Observer ["An audience with Philip Roth"]):

On our last evening. Philip takes me to an Italian restaurant he likes in the far West Forties, way outside any fashionable or literary neighbourhoods. (‘You won’t see Joan Didion here,’ he says.) It’s a family business, full of big, tough, snazzily dressed Italian couples, quiet family groups and the chef’s relations. Philip is greeted as an old friend. Work’s over, and he settles down to have fun: anecdotes, character-sketches, jokes, songs, impersonations, come pouring out. It’s not like being at Versailles with the Sun King any more. It’s like having supper with the Marx Brothers; it’s like tuning into your very own radio channel, the Roth Station. The volume goes up as the comedy gets more outrageous, and heads turn – not in recognition, here, but because people nearby are being distracted from their own conversations. One old man, out for a quiet evening with his wife, says wrily to Roth as they leave, passing our table: ‘Try and enjoy yourself.’

2 Responses to “And Then He Did the Old Soft Shoe”
  1. Frank Says:

    Was “Don’t Stop Believin’” playing on the tabletop jukebox?

  2. Keir Says:

    I think they had to cut that sentence for space–but, yes.

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