An excerpt from my review in The American Conservative of the new film "Elegy," which is an adaptation of Philip Roth's short 2002 novel The Dying Animal:
Paradoxically but profitably, Hollywood assumed that America's youth wanted to spend May and June, the two months of the year with the nicest weather, inside watching blockbuster movies. Now that the dog days of summer are here, the big movies are trickling to a halt and art house films for adults are back.
You can't get much art housier than "Elegy," in which Sir Ben Kingsley ("Gandhi") portrays one of novelist Philip Roth's lesser alter egos, the lecherous literature professor David Kepesh.
F. Scott Fitzgerald famously asserted, "There are no second acts in American lives." This is often true for alcoholics, such as the many American writers who resorted to the bottle to restore temporarily the visual world's luminous glow, that green light at the end of the dock that shone for them when they were young and in their lyrical primes.
In contrast, a social novelist such as Roth can potentially keep getting better as he becomes older and wiser. Roth hit the bestseller lists in 1969 with Portnoy's Complaint, the definitive denunciation of "Jewish guilt" (which in Roth's book is the opposite of "white guilt" -- it's the nagging sense that you aren't ethnocentric enough). Then, Roth's career bogged down in experimental conceits.
Over the last decade and a half, from about the age of 60 onward, he's returned with a torrent of strong novels, allowing his fans to proclaim him America's Greatest Living Writer. Perhaps, although there's little mystery to Roth's talent. You can imagine that if you were twice as smart and ten times as hard-working, you too could do what Roth does.