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Publisher's Summary

"I don't want you to rehabilitate me," Philip Roth said to his only authorized biographer, Blake Bailey. "Just make me interesting." Granted complete independence and access, Bailey spent almost 10 years poring over Roth's personal archive, interviewing his friends, lovers, and colleagues, and listening to Roth's own breathtakingly candid confessions. Cynthia Ozick, in her front-page rave for the New York Times Book Review, described Bailey's monumental biography as "a narrative masterwork.... As in a novel, what is seen at first to be casual chance is revealed at last to be a steady and powerfully demanding drive...under Bailey's strong light what remains on the page is one writer's life as it was lived, and - almost - as it was felt".    

Though Roth is generally considered an autobiographical novelist - his alter egos include not only the Roth-like writer Nathan Zuckerman, but also a recurring character named Philip Roth - relatively little is known about the actual life on which so vast an oeuvre was supposedly based. Bailey reveals a man who, by design, led a highly compartmentalized life: A tireless champion of dissident writers behind the Iron Curtain on the one hand, Roth was also the Mickey Sabbath-like roué who pursued scandalous love affairs and aspired "[t]o affront and affront and affront till there was no one on earth unaffronted" - the man who was pilloried by his second wife, the actress Claire Bloom, in her 1996 memoir, Leaving a Doll's House.    

Towering above it all was Roth's achievement: 31 books that give us "the truest picture we have of the way we live now", as the poet Mark Strand put it in his remarks for Roth's Gold Medal at the 2001 American Academy of Arts and Letters ceremonial. 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 postwar American culture.

©2021 Blake Bailey (P)2021 Skyhorse Publishing

What listeners say about Philip Roth

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Great

Disability issues with the offer, this book should definitely see the light of day. It is a terrific description of the life of a very interesting person

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moved

I've spent the last nine months going through Roth's work present here on Audible. The man is skilled and truly knows the human experience. This book let's you get a little closer to seeing what may have been his true self and is a very worthwhile experience if you want to see inside the mind of the master

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BEAUTIFUL

I LOVED ALL OF THE 32 HRS.!!! IF YOU HAVE ANY INTEREST YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY GO THE DISTANCE. WELL WORTH THE EFFORT!!!

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Unsparing & magnificent

There are several stretches within this audiobook where you’ll find yourself rewinding again again. You’ll just be struck by the dogged stare into the heart of things presented. You’ll also find yourself reaching for your own copies of his works … to orient yourself.

Because some highbrow (and, maybe, well intentioned) reviewers have opined that the voice of Bailey the author is far too aligned with his subject, let’s address that at once: So what? This is an authorized biography and surely Bailey intends to channel Roth. (and interlope Zuckerman) He succeeds in tracing the interconnection between Roth’s lows and highs, his real grudges, treachery from those whom he trusted, fictionalization of experience in his writings and his experimentation with the limitations of the novel form. And oh how Roth blurred those boundaries and, what is more, how others (critics, lovers, rivals) distorted his writings to suit their own conceits. It’s all in there…. This book is a fitting biography of the man, in part, because Bailey lowers his own voice at times so we can hear his subject's voice clearer; yet Bailey offers many subtle wags of his finger.

I adored the narration. (You’ll have to listen to the book to get the joke) Guidall's voice connected with Roth’s Weeqauhic heritage and made listening to this long book feel like hearing the voices of a community that’s now largely deceased; like recordings of family high gossip at a reunion. The tone is very suitable.

The final section is very Roth. You feel the unfolding decline as parts of his network of loved ones pass away. The explanation of Roth's decision to bequeath his collection of books to the Newark Public Library demonstrates his defiance and is very moving, like so much of his life. There’s an inevitability about his light dimming and going out but the telling is measured and unflinching.

If you loved his books this audiobook will make you laugh but it will also make you question Roth. And it will reawaken your grief at our loss of his great heart.

Thank you Mr Bailey for delivering him to us once more in this form. I will also purchase the physical book. It needs to sit on the shelf alongside the 31.

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Terrible narrator

The book is very interesting, however, the narrator is horrible. The publisher must have gotten him on the cheap because I have to take breaks from listening, Mr. Guidall is so irritating.