Lovably cantankerous Philip Roth slams Wikipedia in open letter
Philip Roth proves that he remains a lovable curmudgeon with his latest antic: writing an open letter to Wikipedia via The New Yorker to refute an error in his wiki entry. The author of American Pastoral, The Plot Against America, and Goodbye, Columbus composed the letter after his petition to remove a misstatement -- that the character and plot of his novel The Human Stain was based on the life of the late literary polymath Anatole Broyard -- was denied, on the decision that Roth was not "a credible source." In the article, Roth recounts the response from an administrator, which leaps straight out of a Gary Shteyngart concoction: "'I understand your point that the author is the greatest authority on their own work...but we require secondary sources.'"
Roth's letter on the whole acts as a point-by-point argumentative essay, spanning twenty-eight paragraphs serrated with a cut-and-dry prose and slight didacticism. Although Roth admits that he was a distant acquaintance of Broyard (now most widely-known for his memoirs on his life as a mixed-race man who chose to publicly pass for white), he denies any overt and/or deliberate similarities between Broyard and Coleman Silk, the protagonist of The Human Stain (spoiler alert!) who chooses to live life in a similar vein. Instead, Roth openly links his character's inspiration to the deceased academic Mel Tumin.
What proves to be most striking about the open letter is not the content, but of the nature of its direct, un-ironic, and humorless style, not to mention the sheer fact that it took Roth this long to Google himself. In any case, the letter proves once and for all that it is possible to be both Philip Roth and adorably cantankerous.