1. Carmen's Complaint
I've read most of Philip Roth's oeuvre. I once took a class in which we read nothing but Roth novels. I will admit, I am not an unbiased observer when it comes to Roth, and how much of that has to do with the fact that I am also a cranky Jewish male, I cannot say; but anyone who says that Roth "doesn't rate" as a writer is clearly not worthy of commenting on his work at all, let alone judging it. Even if you think Roth's work borders on the misogynistic--even if you think his hatred of women is palpable and disturbing--you cannot deny that in terms of the pure craft of writing sentences and crafting plots, there is no one in the latter half of the 20th century who has done it as well as Roth. To contend otherwise is to shed all credibility as an arbiter of writing. Which is why I've never really trusted British people in the first place.
2. And While We're At It...
...here are five potential Roth entry points:
The Great American Novel. If you enjoy sharply hyperbolic fairy tales about mythological baseball leagues.
Portnoy's Complaint. If you enjoy carnal relations with animal products.
Goodbye Columbus. If you enjoy coming of age (and or starting at the beginning).
The Plot Against America. If you prefer your Roth straight and unadorned.
Patrimony. If you prefer your Roth straight and unadorned and memoirish, and if you have a complex relationship with your father.*
3. Coming Out
Here's the difficulty for the first gay athlete who chooses to out himself while still active: He cannot really plan ahead. If Branch Rickey had one advantage in signing Jackie Robinson, it's that he could choose the player he felt was best built to endure the difficulties he would inevitably face. The first gay athlete will have to rely more on the fact that whatever team he plays for would be willing to accept his homosexuality and to protect him from the maelstrom that ensues, which is what makes this story about college basketball coaches' potential acceptance of a gay athlete actually kind of disturbing: None say they would actively discriminate, but many say they would hesitate to recruit a gay player, which makes me wonder--not if we're ready as a society for a gay athlete to emerge (we obviously are), but if there is enough of a support system in place to allow that athlete to emerge on his own.
Pamela Colloff, on a Texas murder story that would have made for an even worse plot twist than what actually happened during Season 2 of Friday Night Lights.
Alex Pappademas on teenaged werewolves.
The Outfield, "Your Love." Because there was a point in my childhood when I listened to the .45 of this song, on repeat, for an entire afternoon. And because Josie's been on that vacation for a hell of a long time.
*In other words, if you are a male.