‘Superlative… definitive and genuinely gripping’ SUNDAY TIMES
‘Utterly engrossing’ EVENING STANDARD
‘Compulsively readable… Beautifully written… Definitive’ OBSERVER
Appointed by Philip Roth and granted complete access and independence, Blake Bailey spent years poring over Roth’s personal archive, interviewing his friends, lovers, and colleagues, and engaging Roth himself in breathtakingly candid conversations. The result is an indelible portrait of an American master and of the post-war literary scene.
Bailey shows how Roth emerged from a lower-middle-class Jewish milieu to achieve the heights of literary fame, how his career was nearly derailed by his catastrophic first marriage, and how he championed the work of dissident novelists behind the Iron Curtain. Bailey examines Roth’s rivalrous friendships with Saul Bellow, John Updike and William Styron, and reveals the truths of his florid love life, culminating in his almost-twenty-year relationship with actress Claire Bloom, who pilloried Roth in her 1996 memoir, Leaving a Doll’s House. Tracing Roth’s path from realism to farce to metafiction to the tragic masterpieces of the American Trilogy, Bailey explores Roth’s engagement with nearly every aspect of post-war American culture.
*A ‘BOOKS OF 2021’ PICK IN THE OBSERVER, GUARDIAN, FINANCIAL TIMES, SUNDAY TIMES, EVENING STANDARD AND NEW STATESMAN*
Superlative... Bailey's account is definitive and genuinely gripping to boot... He leads us lucidly through a dense palimpsest of overlapping drafts, fictional identities, literary feuds and women. -- Claire Lowdon * Sunday Times * It's a miracle that he has published so lucid a book just three years after Roth's death - and one so packed with good anecdotes and jokes... It's an achievement for Bailey to have gained as much distance as he has. -- Blake Morrison * Guardian * Bailey's utterly engrossing biography...shows Roth led a life just as strange and intense as his fictionalised alter egos. -- Tomiwa Owolade * Evening Standard * Unassailable as to fact... clear-eyed... quickly moving... Philip Roth seems as brightly peopled as a Victorian novel. ... What [Bailey] does superbly... is chart Roth's sexual and emotional life, and map its effects on his work. -- Michael Gorra * New York Review of Books * Bailey is a very good writer and a very good literary biographer... What a story... Along with it comes the man in his wholeness. -- James Parker * Atlantic * A monumental gift... Not only does Blake Bailey bring his famously scrupulous research to bear on this life packed with equal parts honour and scandal, he does so with economy and narrative force - all while working in elegant, unforgettable prose... I wept and railed, marvelled and shook my fist at the sky. 'Just make me interesting,' Roth asked of Bailey, and this unputdownable page-turner does just that. -- Mary Karr Everything you ever wanted to know about Philip Roth you can discover in his novels. Everything you ever wanted to know about what it took to become one of the greatest American writers of our time, you will find in Blake Bailey's breathtaking biography. -- Nicole Krauss Philip Roth, to go with his legendary talent, was a lucky man. That streak continues with Blake Bailey's charming, wise, and witty biography, which achieves a balance and comprehensiveness that shouldn't have been possible so soon after Roth's death. -- Jonathan Lethem Bailey brings his talents to bear in this remarkable portrait of lauded and divisive literary titan Philip Roth... In consistently luminous, humorous prose, Bailey vividly evokes Roth as a writer and a man... A stunning feat, this is as dynamic and gripping as any of Roth's own fictions. * Publishers Weekly (starred review) * In this excellent biography, Bailey offers an evenhanded portrait of [Roth]... Outstanding. * Kirkus Reviews (starred review) *
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