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Philip Roth: Pulitzer Prize Winning Author Dies at 85

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(NEW YORK) — Philip Roth, the prize-winning novelist and fearless narrator of sex, death, assimilation and fate, from the comic madness of “Portnoy’s Complaint” to the elegiac lyricism of “American Pastoral,” died Tuesday night at age 85.

Roth’s literary agent, Andrew Wylie, said that the author died in a New York City hospital of congestive heart failure.

Author of more than 25 books, Roth was a fierce satirist and uncompromising realist, confronting readers in a bold, direct style that scorned false sentiment or hopes for heavenly reward. He was an atheist who swore allegiance to earthly imagination, whether devising pornographic functions for raw liver or indulging romantic fantasies about Anne Frank. In “The Plot Against America,” published in 2004, he placed his own family under the anti-Semitic reign of President Charles Lindbergh. In 2010, in “Nemesis,” he subjected his native New Jersey to a polio epidemic.

He was among the greatest writers never to win the Nobel Prize. But he received virtually every other literary honor, including two National Book Awards, two National Book Critics Circle prizes and, in 1998, the Pulitzer for “American Pastoral.” He was in his 20s when he won his first award and awed critics and fellow writers by producing some of his most acclaimed novels in his 60s and 70s, including “The Human Stain” and “Sabbath’s Theater,” a savage narrative of lust and mortality he considered his finest work.

He identified himself as an American writer, not a Jewish one, but for Roth the American experience and the Jewish experience were often the same. While predecessors such as Saul Bellow and Bernard Malamud wrote of the Jews’ painful adjustment from immigrant life, Roth’s characters represented the next generation. Their first language was English, and they spoke without accents. They observed no rituals and belonged to no synagogues. The American dream, or nightmare, was to become “a Jew without Jews, without Judaism, without Zionism, without Jewishness.” The reality, more often, was to be regarded as a Jew among gentiles and a gentile among Jews.

In the novel “The Ghost Writer” he quoted one of his heroes, Franz Kafka: “We should only read those books that bite and sting us.” For his critics, his books were to be repelled like a swarm of bees.

Feminists, Jews and one ex-wife attacked him in print, and sometimes in person. Women in his books were at times little more than objects of desire and rage and The Village Voice once put his picture on its cover, condemning him as a misogynist. A panel moderator berated him for his comic portrayals of Jews, asking Roth if he would have written the same books in Nazi Germany. The Jewish scholar Gershom Scholem called “Portnoy’s Complaint” the “book for which all anti-Semites have been praying.” When Roth won the Man Booker International Prize, in 2011, a judge resigned, alleging that the author suffered from terminal solipsism and went “on and on and on about the same subject in almost every single book.” In “Sabbath’s Theater,” Roth imagines the inscription for his title character’s headstone: “Sodomist, Abuser of Women, Destroyer of Morals.”

Ex-wife Claire Bloom wrote a best-selling memoir, “Leaving a Doll’s House,” in which the actress remembered reading the manuscript of his novel “Deception.” With horror, she discovered his characters included a boring middle-aged wife named Claire, married to an adulterous writer named Philip. Bloom also described her ex-husband as cold, manipulative and unstable. (Although, alas, she still loved him). The book was published by Virago Press, whose founder, Carmen Callil, was the same judge who quit years later from the Booker committee.

Roth’s wars also originated from within. He survived a burst appendix in the late 1960s and near-suicidal depression in 1987. After the disappointing reaction to his 1993 novel, “Operation Shylock,” he fell again into severe depression and for years rarely communicated with the media. For all the humor in his work — and, friends would say, in private life — jacket photos usually highlighted the author’s tense, dark-eyed glare. In 2012, he announced that he had stopped writing fiction and would instead dedicate himself to helping biographer Blake Bailey complete his life story, one he openly wished would not come out while he was alive. By 2015, he had retired from public life altogether.

He never promised to be his readers’ friend; writing was its own reward, the narration of “life, in all its shameless impurity.” Until his abrupt retirement, Roth was a dedicated, prolific author who often published a book a year and was generous to writers from other countries. For years, he edited the “Writers from the Other Europe” series, in which authors from Eastern Europe received exposure to American readers; Milan Kundera was among the beneficiaries. Roth also helped bring a wider readership to the acclaimed Israeli writer Aharon Appelfeld.

Roth began his career in rebellion against the conformity of the 1950s and ended it in defense of the security of the 1940s; he was never warmer than when writing about his childhood, or more sorrowful, and enraged, than when narrating the shock of innocence lost.

Roth was born in 1933 in Newark, New Jersey, a time and place he remembered lovingly in “The Facts,” ”American Pastoral” and other works. The scolding, cartoonish parents of his novels were pure fiction. He adored his parents, especially his father, an insurance salesman to whom he paid tribute in the memoir “Patrimony.” Roth would describe his childhood as “intensely secure and protected,” at least at home. He was outgoing and brilliant and, tall and dark-haired, especially attractive to girls. In his teens he presumed he would become a lawyer, a most respectable profession in his family’s world.

But after a year at Newark College of Rutgers University, Roth emulated an early literary hero, James Joyce, and fled his hometown. He transferred to Bucknell College in Pennsylvania and only returned to Newark on paper. By his early 20s, Roth was writing fiction — at first casually, soon with primary passion, with Roth observing he could never really be happy unless working on a novel, inside the “fun house” of his imagination. “The unlived, the surmise, fully drawn in print on paper, is the life whose meaning comes to matter most,” he wrote in the novel “Exit Ghost.”

After receiving a master’s degree in English from the University of Chicago, he began publishing stories in The Paris Review and elsewhere. Bellow was an early influence, as were Thomas Wolfe, Flaubert, Henry James and Kafka, whose picture Roth hung in his writing room.

Acclaim and controversy were inseparable. A short story about Jews in the military, “Defender of the Faith,” introduced Roth to accusations of Jewish self-hatred. His debut collection, published in 1959, was “Goodbye, Columbus,” featuring a love (and lust) title story about a working class Jew and his wealthier girlfriend. It brought the writer a National Book Award and some extra-literary criticism.

The aunt of the main character, Neil Klugman, is a meddling worrywart, and the upper-middle-class relatives of Neil’s girlfriend are satirized as shallow materialists. Roth believed he was simply writing about people he knew, but some Jews saw him as a traitor, subjecting his brethren to ridicule before the gentile world. A rabbi accused him of distorting the lives of Orthodox Jews. At a writers conference in the early 1960s, he was relentlessly accused of creating stories that affirmed the worst Nazi stereotypes.

But Roth insisted writing should express, not sanitize. After two relatively tame novels, “Letting Go” and “When She was Good,” he abandoned his good manners with “Portnoy’s Complaint,” his ode to blasphemy against the “unholy trinity of “father, mother and Jewish son.” Published in 1969, a great year for rebellion, it was an event, a birth, a summation, Roth’s triumph over “the awesome graduate school authority of Henry James,” as if history’s lid had blown open and out erupted a generation of Jewish guilt and desire.

As narrated by Alexander Portnoy, from a psychiatrist’s couch, Roth’s novel satirized the dull expectations heaped upon “nice Jewish boys” and immortalized the most ribald manifestations of sexual obsession. His manic tour of one man’s onanistic adventures led Jacqueline Susann to comment that “Philip Roth is a good writer, but I wouldn’t want to shake hands with him.” Although “Portnoy’s Complaint” was banned in Australia and attacked by Scholem and others, many critics welcomed the novel as a declaration of creative freedom. “Portnoy’s Complaint” sold millions, making Roth wealthy, and, more important, famous. The writer, an observer by nature, was now observed. He was an item in gossip columns, a name debated at parties. Strangers called out to him in the streets. Roth would remember hailing a taxi and, seeing that the driver’s last name was Portnoy, commiserating over the book’s notoriety.

In an Oval Office recording from November 1971, President Richard Nixon and White House chief of staff H.R. Haldeman discussed the famous author, whom Nixon apparently confused with the pornographer Samuel Roth.

____

Haldeman: I never read “Portnoy’s Complaint,” but I understand it was a well written book but just sickeningly filthy.

Nixon: Roth is of course a Jew.

Haldeman: Oh, yes … He’s brilliant in a sick way.

Nixon: Oh, I know —

Haldeman: Everything he’s written has been sick …

____

With Roth finding himself asked whether he really was Portnoy, several of his post-Portnoy novels amounted to a dare: Is it fact of fiction? In “The Anatomy Lesson,” ”The Counterlife” and other novels, the featured character is a Jewish writer from New Jersey named Nathan Zuckerman. He is a man of similar age to Roth who just happened to have written a “dirty” best seller, “Carnovsky,” and is lectured by friends and family for putting their lives into his books.

“Operation Skylock” featured a middle-aged writer named Philip Roth, haunted by an impersonator in Israel who has a wild plan to lead the Jews back to Europe. In interviews, Roth claimed (not very convincingly) the story was true, lamenting that only when he wrote fiction did people think he was writing about his life.

Even when Roth wrote non-fiction, the game continued. At the end of his autobiography, “The Facts,” Roth included a disclaimer by Nathan Zuckerman himself, chastising his creator for a self-serving, inhibited piece of storytelling.

“As for characterization, you, Roth, are the least completely rendered of all your protagonists,” Zuckerman tells him.

In the 1990s, after splitting with Bloom and again living fulltime in the United States (he had been spending much of his time in England), Roth reconnected with the larger world and culture of his native country. “American Pastoral” narrated a decent man’s decline from high school sports star to victim of the ’۶۰s and the “indigenous American berserk.” In “The Human Stain,” he raged against the impeachment of President Clinton over his affair with a White House intern. “The fantasy of purity is appalling. It’s insane,” he wrote.

In recent years, Roth was increasingly preoccupied with history and its sucker punch, how ordinary people were defeated by events beyond their control, like the Jews in “The Plot Against America” or the college student in “Indignation” who dies in the Korean War. Mortality, “the inevitable onslaught that is the end of life,” became another subject, in “Everyman” and “The Humbling,” despairing chronicles as told by a non-believer.

Writing proved the author’s most enduring relationship. Roth, who married Bloom in 1990, had one previous wife. In 1959, he was married to the former Margaret Martinson Williams, a time remembered bitterly in “The Facts” and in his novel “My Life as a Man.” They were legally separated in 1963 and she died in a car crash five years later. There were no children from either marriage.

Roth’s non-literary life could be as strange, if not stranger than his fiction. In the mid-’۹۰s, he split up with Bloom, whose acting roles included a part in Woody Allen’s “Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Roth then reportedly dated Mia Farrow, the ex-lover of Allen, who in another movie played a writer with the last name Roth.

Bloom turned her marriage into a memoir, and Roth turned her memoir into fiction. In the novel “I Married a Communist,” one character just happens to have been married to an actress who wrote a book about him after their divorce.

“How could she publish this book and not expect him to do something?” he asks. “Did she imagine this openly aggressive hothead was going to do nothing in response?”

Venezuela: U.S. Diplomats Expelled After Tougher Sanctions

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(CARACAS, Venezuela) — President Nicolas Maduro expelled the top U.S. diplomat in Venezuela and his deputy Tuesday for allegedly conspiring against the socialist government and trying to sabotage the weekend presidential election.

“The empire doesn’t dominate us here,” Maduro said in a televised address, giving charge d’affaires Todd Robinson and his deputy, Brian Naranjo, 48 hours to leave the country. “We’ve had enough of your conspiring.”

Tensions between the U.S. and Venezuela have mounted following Maduro’s victory in presidential election Sunday, a vote that the White House and others have branded a “sham.”

Maduro said in his speech that Robinson and Naranjo, whom he referred to as the head of the CIA in Venezuela, both personally pressured several anti-government presidential aspirants not to compete in the race. Despite widespread discontent over Venezuela’s economic collapse, most opposition parties decided to boycott the election after officials blocked their most popular leaders from competing against Maduro.

Maduro also accused the Trump administration, which toughened financial sanctions on his government Monday, of seeking to escalate “aggressions” against the Venezuelan people. U.S. officials have also said the administration might consider imposing oil sanctions on Venezuela.

“The dominant and decisive reason why the opposition progressively withdrew from the elections was the decision by the extremist U.S. government to not validate or legitimize a presidential election that they knew fully was going to be won in any scenario by the candidate of Nicolas Maduro,” Maduro said.

Anticipating likely reciprocal expulsion by the Trump administration, Maduro hours later gave a new job to Carlos Ron, who had been serving as his top envoy to Washington. Ron was named deputy foreign minister in charge of relations with North America.

Robinson was travelling in Venezuela’s western state of Merida when he learned through social media of Maduro’s order, according to a local radio broadcast of him speaking at an event. Robinson said he and his deputy “strongly reject the accusations.”

“This is my first visit but it won’t be my last visit to Merida or to Venezuela,” he said.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert in Washington echoed Robinson’s words during a briefing with reporters, saying that U.S. officials consider them “false allegations.”

In his long career, Robinson, a career diplomat, has worked in Colombia, Bolivia, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic. He earned a reputation for speaking out as ambassador to Guatemala and several times faced calls there for his expulsion.

He has been similarly provocative in his short stay in Caracas.

Days after landing in Caracas in December, he posed for pictures next to a statue of independence hero Simon Bolivar in a pro-government plaza and called Maduro’s constitutional assembly “illegitimate.”

He has also made several forceful calls for the release of U.S. citizen Joshua Holt, who has been jailed for more than two years without a trial on weapons charges.

Last week, Robinson rushed with cameras in tow to the foreign ministry to demand information about Holt after the Utah native appeared in a video from jail saying his life had been threatened during what the U.S. Embassy deemed a prison “riot.”

Robinson said nobody in the Venezuelan government would met with him, but socialist party boss Diosdado Cabello denied the snub, accusing the diplomat of staging a “show”

But despite the frequent clashes, Maduro had seemed little inclined to declare Robinson persona non grata, as he and his mentor, the late Hugo Chavez, did several times previously to U.S. diplomats.

Last month, Maduro even welcomed Robinson to the presidential palace for a private meeting with visiting U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin. He also dispatched a trusted aide, Delcy Rodriguez, the head of the constitutional assembly, to meet with Robinson at his residence.

Venezuela and the U.S. haven’t exchanged ambassadors since 2010, so Robinson, while preserving his ambassadorial rank, was serving as chief of mission at the hilltop embassy in Caracas. Naranjo, his deputy, is one of the most senior State Department officials working on Venezuela, having served previously in Caracas when Chavez first ran for president in 1998.

Patrick Duddy, the last U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, who himself was briefly expelled by Chavez in 2008, said the U.S. is not alone in rejecting Maduro’s election as illegitimate and harshly criticizing the government for destroying the economy.

“They’re looking to blame someone,” said Duddy, now director of Duke University’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. “As it has so often been in the past, the target of their efforts is the United States.”

Indian Police Fire on Copper Plant Protestors, Killing 12

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Demonstrations against a copper smelting plant in southern India ended in violence Tuesday after police opened fire on protestors, killing 12, local authorities confirmed.

Thousands of protestors assembled for hours in India’s southern Tamil Nadu to demand the closure of a British-owned copper plant due to worries over pollution, Agence France-Presse reports. Protestors set fire a local administrator’s office and burned more than 110 vehicles, according to police, who responded with batons and tear gas before firing on the crowd. About 20 police officers were also injured in the skirmish, which occurred in the southern port city Tuticorin.

The violence has sparked outrage from Indian public figures and celebrities. Rahul Gandhi, leader of the opposition Indian National Congress party, called the incident “state sponsored terrorism.”

Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami defended the police response in a statement, citing “unavoidable circumstances” and blaming the protestors for resorting to “repeated violence.” Palaniswami added that families of the victims would be offered one million rupees ($14,700) in compensation.

Local residents have been protesting for months against the plant, which is operated by Sterlite Copper, a subsidiary of London-based Vedanta Resources. Environmental activists say the cooper plant is polluting local water resources, allegations the company denied as “false propaganda.”

The plant has been closed since March, when it shut for maintenance, but it has since been denied an operating license over failure to observe environmental regulations, Reuters reported. It is scheduled to reopen in June and plans to double its capacity.

The plant was also briefly shut in March 2013 after a suspected gas leak left hundreds of local residents struggling to breath and suffering from nausea and throat infections, according to AFP.

Santa Fe Shooting: Sabika Sheikh’s Body Arrives in Karachi

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(KARACHI, Pakistan) — The body of a 17-year-old Pakistani exchange student killed in a mass shooting at a high school in Texas arrived before dawn Wednesday in the port city of Karachi, where her family lived and where she was being buried.

Sabika Sheikh was among 10 students and staff slain Friday at Santa Fe High School. The alleged shooter is 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis, who is being held on capital murder charges.

Sabika had planned to return home in a few weeks for Eid al-Fitr, the three-day holiday marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

She was her family’s oldest child and began classes at Santa Fe High School last August. She had hoped to one day join Pakistan’s foreign service.

Her tearful father was there to receive the body at Karachi airport. Abdul Aziz Sheikh has said he hopes her death leads to stricter gun control in the United States.

Later, thousands of mourners, including the provincial governor, attended her funeral at city’s mosque.

“Before her death, she was just my daughter, but now she is the daughter of Pakistan, and it is only because of the love of people, who mourned her killing,” her father said.

The shooting reignited the debate over gun control in the United States. Pakistan requires gun owners to be licensed, but the rules are poorly enforced, particularly in the tribal regions along the border with Afghanistan. Heavily armed militant groups have carried out scores of attacks in recent years.

Legend of Loch Ness Monster Will be Tested With DNA Samples

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(WELLINGTON, New Zealand) — The stories seem as tall as the lake is deep. For hundreds of years, visitors to Scotland’s Loch Ness have described seeing a monster that some believe lurks in the depths.

But now the legend of “Nessie” may have no place left to hide. A New Zealand scientist is leading an international team to the lake next month, where they will take samples of the murky waters and conduct DNA tests to determine what species live there.

University of Otago professor Neil Gemmell says he’s no believer in Nessie, but he wants to take people on an adventure and communicate some science along the way. Besides, he says, his kids think it’s one of the coolest things he’s ever done.

One of the more far-fetched theories is that Nessie is a long-necked plesiosaur that somehow survived the period when dinosaurs became extinct. Another theory is that the monster is actually a sturgeon or giant catfish. Many believe the sightings are hoaxes or can be explained by floating logs or strong winds.

Gemmell said that when creatures move about in water, they leave behind tiny fragments of DNA. It comes from their skin, feathers, scales and urine.

He said his team will take 300 samples of water from different points around the lake and at different depths. They will filter the organic material and extract the DNA, he said, sequencing it by using technology originally created for the human genome project.

He said the DNA results will then be compared against a database of known species. He said they should have answers by the end of the year.

“I’m going into this thinking it’s unlikely there is a monster, but I want to test that hypothesis,” Gemmell said. “What we’ll get is a really nice survey of the biodiversity of the Loch Ness.”

He said the real discoveries may come in determining things like the prevalence of invasive species.

Gemmell, 51, said he first visited Loch Ness in his late 20s while on vacation. Like thousands of tourists before him, he gazed out over the lake trying to catch sight of a monster. He said he first came up with the idea of testing DNA from the lake a couple of years ago and it resonated with many, including his children, aged 7 and 10.

Graeme Matheson, chief of the Scottish Society of New Zealand, said he, too, has visited Loch Ness and gazed out over the water, and that he wishes Gemmell all the best.

“I hope he and his cohorts find something, although I think they’ll be battling,” Matheson said. “Still, it’s a good way to get a trip to Scotland.”

Gemmell said that even if they don’t find any monster DNA, it won’t deter some Nessie believers. He said they’ve already been offering him theories, like that Nessie might be on vacation after swimming to the sea via hidden underwater caves, or that the creature might be extraterrestrial and not leave behind any DNA.

“In our lives we want there still to be mysteries, some of which we will ultimately solve,” Gemmell said. “That’s part of the spirit of discovery. And sometimes, what you find may not be what you were expecting.”

Defining sexual health

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WHO has been working in the area of sexual health since at least 1974, when the deliberations of an expert committee resulted in the publication of a technical report entitled “Education and treatment in human sexuality” (WHO, 1975).

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Defining Sexual Health vs Sex Addiciton

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Do you have a concern about your sexual behavior?  Do you have a concern about someone else’s sexual behavior that you love and care? These are usually the main motivators that creates the need  to call me to make an appointment.

 

 

Contact me at 816-885-2526 or Chuck@chuckfranks.com

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Definitions of Sexual Health

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The definition of sexual health has progressed since the World Health Organization (WHO) published its original definition in 1975. It is expected that the definition will continue to develop further as the cultural conversation continues to evolve. It is important to remember that any attempts to establish “norms” and an objective definition of sexual health is dangerous in that they could be used to exclude or label people as unhealthy or abnormal.

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Defining Sexual Health

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Coming up with a definition of sexual health is a difficult task, as each culture, sub-culture, and individual has different standards of sexual health. ASHA believes that sexual health includes far more than avoiding disease or unplanned pregnancy. We also believe that having a sexually transmitted infection or unwanted pregnancy does not prevent someone from being or becoming sexually healthy.

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What is Viagra

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