“What Philip Roth Didn’t Know…”

Dara Horn states that Roth’s caricature of women reveals a lack of empathy, and deems it a literary failure, made more egregious by a lack of curiosity. (“What Philip Roth Didn’t Know About Women Could Fill a Book,” NYTimes)

Definitions of “empathy” mention the words “understand” and “share.”

Is it possible for an author not to understand and share women’s feelings, but still be curious about them?

Does an author write much about anything he or she isn’t curious about?

Can empathy be gender-selective? (That men “get” other men better than they get women is the sitcom pablum of decades. But it doesn’t feel right.)

David Foster Wallace said, “Fiction’s about what it is to be a fucking human being.” Maybe his F-word was casual, or maybe he meant to flag coitus and violence as what we’re essentially about.

Does true-seeming imagining of other-sexed people demand some sort of gender dysphoria in the novelist, vicarious or not?

I hazard that the answers could be “Maybe,” “Probably not,” “I doubt it,” and “Possibly.”

(Copyright 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.)

HJN Female Nude

HJN Female Nude

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day, and watch Netflix and Prime Video for entertainment. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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