Roth Unbound by Claudia Roth Pierpont
A Writer and His Books

63%

10 Critic Reviews

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...,
-Guardian

Synopsis

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 Roth Unbound is not a biography—though it contains a wealth of previously undisclosed biographical details and unpublished material—but something ultimately more rewarding: the exploration of a great writer through his art.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 Pierpont

See more books from this Author
Claudia Roth Pierpont is a staff writer for The New Yorker, where she has written about the arts for more than twenty years. The subjects of her articles have ranged from James Baldwin to Katharine Hepburn, from Machiavelli to Mae West. A collection of Pierpont’s essays on women writers, Passionate Minds: Women Rewriting the World, was published in 2000 and was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award. Pierpont has been the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a fellowship at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers of the New York Public Library. She has a PhD in Italian Renaissance art history from New York University. She lives in New York City.
 
Published October 22, 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 367 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Biographies & Memoirs. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Roth Unbound
All: 10 | Positive: 6 | Negative: 4

Publishers Weekly

Good
on Sep 02 2013

Her luminous and graceful study achieves what all good criticism should: it drives us to reread Roth’s work anew.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Martin Amis on Oct 17 2013

Eighty years old, and “done” with writing (or so he says), he comes across as droll, sagacious, securely self-deprecating...

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Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by Tim Adams on Feb 12 2014

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

Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by Joshua Cohen on Jan 17 2014

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.

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NPR

Good
Reviewed by Heller McAlpin on Oct 23 2013

...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.

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Financial Times

Above average
Reviewed by Ian Thomson on Dec 27 2013

...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.

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Washington Times

Good
Reviewed by Martin Rubin on Jan 27 2014

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.

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The Economist

Good
on Oct 19 2013

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.”

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National Post arts

Below average
Reviewed by Michelle Dean on Nov 08 2013

...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.

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National Post arts

Below average
Reviewed by Michelle Dean on Nov 08 2013

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.

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85%

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