Philip Milton Roth (born March 19, 1933) is an American novelist.
He first gained attention with the 1959 novella Goodbye, Columbus, an irreverent and humorous portrait of American-Jewish life for which he received the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction. Roth’s fiction, regularly set in Newark, New Jersey, is known for its intensely autobiographical character, for philosophically and formally blurring the distinction between reality and fiction, for its “supple, ingenious style” and for its provocative explorations of Jewish and American identity. His profile rose significantly in 1969 after the publication of the controversial Portnoy’s Complaint, the humorous and sexually explicit psychoanalytical monologue of “a lust-ridden, mother-addicted young Jewish bachelor,” filled with “intimate, shameful detail, and coarse, abusive language.”
Roth is one of the most awarded U.S. writers of his generation: his books have twice received the National Book Award, twice the National Book Critics Circle award, and three times the PEN/Faulkner Award. He received a Pulitzer Prize for his 1997 novel, American Pastoral, which featured one of his best-known characters, Nathan Zuckerman, the subject of many other of Roth’s novels. The Human Stain (2000), another Zuckerman novel, was awarded the United Kingdom’s WH Smith Literary Award for the best book of the year. In 2001, Roth received the inaugural Franz Kafka Prize.
Philip Roth grew up in the Weequahic neighborhood of Newark, New Jersey, as the second child of Bess (née Finkel) and Herman Roth, first-generation American parents, Jews of Galician descent. He graduated from Newark’s Weequahic High School in or around 1950. “It has provided the focus for the fiction of Philip Roth, the novelist who evokes his era at Weequahic High School in the highly acclaimed Portnoy’s Complaint…. Besides identifying Weequahic High School by name, the novel specifies such sites as the Empire Burlesque, the Weequahic Diner, the Newark Museum and Irvington Park, all local landmarks that helped shape the youth of the real Roth and the fictional Portnoy, both graduates of Weequahic class of ’50.” The Weequahic Yearbook (1950) describes Roth as “A boy of real intelligence, combined with wit and common sense.” Roth was known as a comedian during his time at school. Roth attended Bucknell University, earning a degree in English. He pursued graduate studies at the University of Chicago, where he received an M.A. in English literature in 1955 and worked briefly as an instructor in the university’s writing program. Roth taught creative writing at the University of Iowa and Princeton University. He continued his academic career at the University of Pennsylvania, where he taught comparative literature before retiring from teaching in 1991.
While at Chicago, Roth met the novelist Saul Bellow, as well as Margaret Martinson in 1956, who became his first wife in 1959. Their separation in 1963, along with Martinson’s death in a car crash in 1968, left a lasting mark on Roth’s literary output. Specifically, Martinson was the inspiration for female characters in several of Roth’s novels, including Lucy Nelson in When She Was Good, and Maureen Tarnopol in My Life as a Man. Between the end of his studies and the publication of his first book in 1959, Roth served two years in the United States Army and then wrote short fiction and criticism for various magazines, including movie reviews for The New Republic. Events in Roth’s personal life have occasionally been the subject of media scrutiny. A post-operative breakdown mentioned in the pseudo-confessional novel Operation Shylock (1993) and others drew on Roth’s experience of the temporary side-effects of the sedative halcion (triazolam), prescribed post-operatively in the 1980s. (It was subsequently discovered that unfavorable studies had been suppressed by triazolam’s manufacturer, Upjohn, which showed the drug carried a high risk of causing short term psychiatric disturbance. When this became known, the drug was banned in some countries and its withdrawal due to high risk and poor clinical benefit was also discussed in the United States.)
On his religious views, Roth is an atheist, stating: “When the whole world doesn’t believe in God, it’ll be a great place.”
In 1990, Roth married his long-time companion, English actress Claire Bloom. In 1994 they separated, and in 1996 Bloom published a memoir, Leaving a Doll’s House, which described the couple’s marriage in detail, much of which was unflattering to Roth. Certain aspects of I Married a Communist have been regarded by critics as veiled rebuttals to accusations put forth in Bloom’s memoir.
Roth’s first book, Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories, won the National Book Award in 1960, and afterwards he published two novels, Letting Go and When She Was Good. The publication of his fourth novel, Portnoy’s Complaint, in 1969 gave Roth widespread commercial and critical success. During the 1970s Roth experimented in various modes, from the political satire Our Gang to the Kafkaesque The Breast. By the end of the decade Roth had created his alter ego Nathan Zuckerman. In a series of highly self-referential novels and novellas that followed between 1979 and 1986, Zuckerman appeared as either the main character or an interlocutor.
Sabbath’s Theater (1995) may have Roth’s most lecherous protagonist, Mickey Sabbath, a disgraced former puppeteer; it won his second National Book Award. In complete contrast, American Pastoral (1997), the first volume of his so-called second Zuckerman trilogy, focuses on the life of virtuous Newark athletics star Swede Levov and the tragedy that befalls him when his teenage daughter transforms into a domestic terrorist during the late 1960s; it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. I Married a Communist (1998) focuses on the McCarthy era. The Human Stain examines identity politics in 1990s America. The Dying Animal (2001) is a short novel about eros and death that revisits literary professor David Kepesh, protagonist of two 1970s works, The Breast and The Professor of Desire. In The Plot Against America (2004), Roth imagines an alternate American history in which Charles Lindbergh, aviator hero and isolationist, is elected U.S. president in 1940, and the U.S. negotiates an understanding with Hitler’s Nazi Germany and embarks on its own program of anti-Semitism.
Roth’s novel Everyman, a meditation on illness, aging, desire, and death, was published in May 2006. For Everyman Roth won his third PEN/Faulkner Award, making him the only person so honored. Exit Ghost, which again features Nathan Zuckerman, was released in October 2007. According to the book’s publisher, it is the last Zuckerman novel. Indignation, Roth’s 29th book, was published on September 16, 2008. Set in 1951, during the Korean War, it follows Marcus Messner’s departure from Newark to Ohio’s Winesburg College, where he begins his sophomore year. In 2009, Roth’s 30th book The Humbling was published, which told the story of the last performances of Simon Axler, a celebrated stage actor. Roth’s 31st book, Nemesis, was published on October 5, 2010. According to the book’s notes, Nemesis is the final in a series of four “short novels,” which also included Everyman, Indignation and The Humbling.
Two of Roth’s works have won the National Book Award for Fiction; four others were finalists. Two have won National Book Critics Circle awards; again, another five were finalists. He has also won three PEN/Faulkner Awards (Operation Shylock, The Human Stain, and Everyman) and a Pulitzer Prize for his 1997 novel, American Pastoral. In 2001, The Human Stain was awarded the United Kingdom’s WH Smith Literary Award for the best book of the year. In 2002, he was awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters Literary critic Harold Bloom has named him as one of the four major American novelists still at work, along with Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, and Cormac McCarthy. His 2004 novel The Plot Against America won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History in 2005 as well as the Society of American Historians’ James Fenimore Cooper Prize. Roth was also awarded the United Kingdom’s WH Smith Literary Award for the best book of the year, an award Roth has received twice. He was honored in his hometown in October 2005 when then-mayor Sharpe James presided over the unveiling of a street sign in Roth’s name on the corner of Summit and Keer Avenues where Roth lived for much of his childhood, a setting prominent in The Plot Against America. A plaque on the house where the Roths lived was also unveiled. In May 2006, he was given the PEN/Nabokov Award, and in 2007 he was awarded the PEN/Faulkner award for Everyman, making him the award’s only three-time winner. In April 2007, he was chosen as the recipient of the first PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction.
The May 21, 2006 issue of The New York Times Book Review announced the results of a letter that was sent to what the publication described as “a couple of hundred prominent writers, critics, editors and other literary sages, asking them to please identify ‘the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years.'” Six of Roth’s novels were in the 22 selected: American Pastoral, The Counterlife, Operation Shylock, Sabbath’s Theater, The Human Stain, and The Plot Against America. The accompanying essay, written by critic A.O. Scott, stated, “If we had asked for the single best writer of fiction of the past 25 years, [Roth] would have won.” In 2009, he was awarded the Welt-Literaturpreis of the German newspaper Die Welt.
Nathan Zuckerman series
Philip Roth – My Life As A Man (read by Dan John Miller)
Philip Roth – The Ghost Writer (read by George Guidall)
Philip Roth – Zuckerman Unbound (read by George Guidall)
Philip Roth – The Anatomy Lesson (read by George Guidall)
Philip Roth – The Prague Orgy (read by George Guidall)
Philip Roth – The Counterlife (read by George Guidall)
Philip Roth – American Pastoral (read by Ron Silver)
Philip Roth – I Married A Communist (read by Ron Silver)
Philip Roth – The Human Stain (read by Arliss Howard and Debra Winger)
Philip Roth – Exit Ghost (read by George Guidall)
Philip Roth – Portnoy’s Complaint (read by Ron Silver)
Philip Roth – Everyman (read by George Guidall)
Philip Roth – Nemesis (read by Dennis Boutsikaris)
Philip Roth – Indignation (read by D*ick Hill)
Philip Roth – Sabbath’s Theater (read by David Dukes)
Philip Roth – The Dying Animal (read by Arliss Howard)
Philip Roth – The Humbling (read by D*ick Hill)
Philip Roth – Operation Shylock (read by Fritz Weaver)
Philip Roth – The Breast (read by David Colacci)
Philip Roth – Patrimony (read by George Guidall)
Philip Roth – The Professor Of Desire (read by David Colacci)
Philip Roth – The Great American Novel (read by James Daniels)
Philip Roth – Deception (read by Susan Ericksen and David Colacci)
Philip Roth – When She Was Good (read by Tanya Eby)
Philip Roth – Letting Go (read by Luke Daniels)
Philip Roth – The Facts (read by Mel Foster)
Philip Roth – The Plot Against America (read by Ron Silver)
Philip Roth – Goodbye, Columbus (read by John Rubinstein)
Nathan Zuckerman series