The Wrath of Roth

September 13, 2012

Philip Roth has written to Wikipedia denying that his novel The Human Stain was based on the life of Anatole Broyard. Instead, he contends, it was based on “an unhappy event in the life of my late friend Melvin Tumin, professor of sociology at Princeton for some 30 years.” The novel, published in 2000, deals with African American professor Coleman Silk who claimed to be white and Jewish – and was forced to retire on charges of racism. Mr. Roth claims there is no truth at all in the conjecture about Mr. Broyard. In response to his letter, a site administrator from Wikipedia wrote: “I understand your point that the author is the greatest authority on their own work, but we require secondary sources.”  Unbelievable! Anyway, apparently although the Wikipedia entry still contains the Broyard theory, it has been revised to include Mr. Roth’s claims. Check out this NYT article and Mr. Roth’s letter.


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