Sir Mark Roth was an earnest pro bowler. But, like many people, he was also an adherent of free-association: if, like him, you think you’ve got something to say, you say it.
He was also among the most prolific writers and translators of English prose in English literature, later including a collection of contemporary poetry. He was a regular contributor to FT newspapers, and edited the FT magazine – a not-exactly small achievement in itself.
He died on Monday. A telegram described him as a “great writer”. His newspaper columns, edited by FT deputy editor Christopher Ricks, continue as a living memorial to his work.
Roth was born in New York in 1948 and grew up in England, primarily in west London, where he spent his formative years. He attended grammar school in Canning Town and Quaker Hill before studying at secondary schools in Dundee and Ashdown House in Henley-on-Thames. He left school without a degree, unable, at the age of 21, to pay his own way to university. So he undertook a series of technical jobs, including renting out a trainee garage. He continued to pursue writing while working in a plumbing firm.
To his family, and to his friends, his eccentricities became his trademark. He was, like many people, particularly fond of prostitutes and motor racing. He spent a long time recovering from polio, and never wanted to be tied down to one type of work. Like many writers, and almost all amateurs, he is best known for short stories, and there were several major publications, including the New Yorker and Review. But he also published two collections of poetry and several volumes of non-fiction, and had a strong interest in science.
He was a regular visitor to the Rat-Lodge Inn in Henley. And he did not take the orthodox route into writers’ residencies. He and Stephen King spent three years writing at Mount Wilson, which eventually became the home of Stars Hollow High in The Simpsons. He lectured in English at the London School of Economics, and was a poet reviewer for the FT – which is where he spent the last part of his life, teaching students.