Never date a writer, common wisdom tells, or you may become the subject of his/her next book.
In October, celebrated American Jewish novelist Philip Roth announced that he is no longer writing.
This development was first noted by JTA on Sunday, Nov. 11, the first day of the Jewish Federations of North America’s 2012 General Assembly.
The timing of the announcement marked an interesting coincidence regarding Roth’s work, Jewish journalism and the G.A.
On Nov. 11, 1976 — exactly 36 years before JTA shared word of Roth’s retirement — the Smolar Awards for Excellence in North American Jewish Journalism, named after JTA Editor In-Chief emeritus Boris Smolar, were announced at the annual Jewish parley in Philadelphia.
One of the recipients for excellence in features was Robert Cohn, editor of the St. Louis Jewish Light. Cohn was cited for his work on three features, including one "dealing with an exclusive and first interview with David Williams the stepson of Philip Roth, which disclosed that Williams’ mother, the late Margaret Martinson Williams Roth, is the basis for characters in some of Roth’s most important work."
The connection discovered by Cohn was explicated in a 2007 "Roth Primer" written by Stephen Amidon for the Sunday Times of London:
Martinson inspired “The Monkey” (Mary Jane Reed) in “Portnoy’s Complaint” and Maureen Tarnopol in “My Life as a Man,” the latter a monstrous man-wrecker who tricks her writer husband into marriage (something Roth swears Margaret did to him by buying urine from a homeless woman before her pregnancy test).
According to Amidon, Roth subsequently created characters in the likeness of another ex-wife, actress Claire Bloom.
For the record, the first red flag against dating Philip Roth was waved by a Jewish journalist.
By the way, what do people say about dating us?