Cancel culture ignores fact that bad people can create good things

Finn McRedmond: We must value the work of artists in spite of their so-called moral failings

Philip Roth: It is not enough to dislike him as a private individual. On account of his personal failings we are asked to dismiss his cultural output too. Photograph: Eric Thayer

Philip Roth: It is not enough to dislike him as a private individual. On account of his personal failings we are asked to dismiss his cultural output too. Photograph: Eric Thayer

The late novelist Philip Roth was something of a fortune teller. One of his final novels, Exit Ghost (2007), concerns a man burdened with cancer and a deteriorating mental state. Despite this, Exit Ghost is preoccupied with a different worry: a biographer seeking to unearth unflattering secrets of a deceased writer’s life.

The fear of posthumous cancellation formed the basis of one of Roth’s last literary ventures. The writer (who died in 2018) looks particularly prescient now that he is apparently facing a similar fate, thanks to two biographies “revealing” details of his past. The Sunday Times wrote: “MeToo is ready to close the book on Philip Roth.” The Daily Mail echoed the sentiment.

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