A critical evaluation of Philip Roth—the first of its kind—that takes on the man, the myth, and the work
Philip Roth is one of the most renowned writers of our time. From his debut, Goodbye, Columbus, which won the National Book Award in 1960, and the explosion of Portnoy's Complaint in 1969 to his haunting reimagining of Anne Frank's story in The Ghost Writer ten years later and the series of masterworks starting in the mid-eighties—The Counterlife, Patrimony, Operation Shylock, Sabbath's Theater, American Pastoral, The Human Stain—Roth has produced some of the great American literature of the modern era. And yet there has been no major critical work about him until now.
Here, at last, is the story of Roth's creative life. Roth Unbound is not a biography—though it contains a wealth of previously undisclosed biographical details and unpublished material—but something ultimately more rewarding: the exploration of a great writer through his art.
Claudia Roth Pierpont, a staff writer for The New Yorker, has known Roth for nearly a decade. Her carefully researched and gracefully written account is filled with remarks from Roth himself, drawn from their ongoing conversations. Here are insights and anecdotes that will change the way many readers perceive this most controversial and galvanizing writer: a young and unhappily married Roth struggling to write; a wildly successful Roth, after the uproar over Portnoy, working to help writers from Eastern Europe and to get their books known in the West; Roth responding to the early, Jewish—and the later, feminist—attacks on his work. Here are Roth's family, his inspirations, his critics, the full range of his fiction, and his friendships with such figures as Saul Bellow and John Updike. Here is Roth at work and at play.
Roth Unbound is a major achievement—a highly readable story that helps us make sense of one of the most vital literary careers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
About Claudia Roth PierpontSee more books from this Author
Her luminous and graceful study achieves what all good criticism should: it drives us to reread Roth’s work anew.Read Full Review of Roth Unbound: A Writer and Hi... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly
Eighty years old, and “done” with writing (or so he says), he comes across as droll, sagacious, securely self-deprecating...Read Full Review of Roth Unbound: A Writer and Hi... | See more reviews from NY Times
There is, necessarily, a valedictory tone to this book, since the great eloquent frenzy of Roth's last two decades, a most remarkable rage against the dying of the light, seems to have ended. In its sense of emotion recollected in tranquillity it captures the seductive humanity of Roth the writer and man...,Read Full Review of Roth Unbound: A Writer and Hi... | See more reviews from Guardian
It is no surprise that her book is a useful resource for plot summary, then, but it is shocking that the new secrets it claims to offer are only shopworn trivia that even my parents – not academics, just Jews from Jersey – already know: the stock in trade of Saturday synagogue book clubs, and the Sunday New York Times.Read Full Review of Roth Unbound: A Writer and Hi... | See more reviews from Guardian
...Roth Unbound brings heightened understanding to the extraordinary scope and risk-taking brilliance of Roth's work, and makes a compelling case for its enduring importance.Read Full Review of Roth Unbound: A Writer and Hi... | See more reviews from NPR
...though respectful, is not entirely adoring. Roth’s ode to baseball, The Great American Novel (1973), is “headache-inducing”, while his satire of the Nixon administration, Our Gang (1971), is “overwrought”. As an old-fashioned critical biography, Roth Unbound has much new to say about the novelist’s life and work.Read Full Review of Roth Unbound: A Writer and Hi... | See more reviews from Financial Times
Ms. Pierpont pays lavish tribute to Mr. Roth’s generosity in giving her access to his files...she attributes this to his being “beyond caring very much what people say anymore. For another, he knows better than anyone that freedom is as essential to writing as to life.” I would propose another reason: He knew that he had chosen well.Read Full Review of Roth Unbound: A Writer and Hi... | See more reviews from Washington Times
This book, however, is a celebration. Some may quibble that Ms Pierpont neglects accusations of misogyny in Mr Roth’s fiction. But it is hard to argue with her conclusion that “Not since Henry James … has an American novelist worked at such a sustained pitch of concentration and achievement.”Read Full Review of Roth Unbound: A Writer and Hi... | See more reviews from The Economist
...Pierpont has set out to write a biography about someone she actually knows and is somewhat close to...If it seems to you exactly the kind of bias a newspaper would never tolerate in a journalist writing about, say, a politician, you are right.Read Full Review of Roth Unbound: A Writer and Hi... | See more reviews from National Post arts
It sounds like something that any person serious about writing an honest account would interrogate. But Pierpont just leaves it there, flapping in the wind, and every time she does so, it calls the entire project into question.Read Full Review of Roth Unbound: A Writer and Hi... | See more reviews from National Post arts
An aggregated and normalized score based on 30 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes