The Atlantic

The Day the Genius Died

To mourn Philip Roth is also to mourn a particular kind of literary celebrity.
Source: Pascal Parrot / Sygma / Sygma / Getty

If you Google the phrase literary lion, here is one of the first definitions that will be returned to you for the effort: “Noun: a noted author who has reached celebrity status.” And, then: “Examples: Philip Roth is a literary lion.”

With that, once again, Dictionary.com cuts to the chase. is, fittingly, being used a lot today, along with “” and “” and “,” as the world comes to terms with the melancholy fact that Philip Roth is no longer in it. The obituaries’ soaring language is often accompanied, as per the mandates of internet protocol, by searing URLs—“philip-roth-dead,” of the novelist who, elsewhere in its assessment, has been “”—and there is a certain aptness to the collision: Philip Roth, literary lion, had little patience for lionizing. Embracing that quintessential writerly mandate, “Write what you know,” he wrote about Newark. He wrote about

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