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I am disorder

Michael Wood, 19 October 1995

Sabbath’s Theater 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 451 pp., £15.99, October 1995, 0 224 03814 1
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... Portnoy complained that his life was a Jewish joke, and Philip Roth himself once suggested that American reality beggared the imagination of even the most extravagant novelist. Who could have invented Eisenhower, he asked, and no sooner had he invented a caricature of Richard Nixon in Our Gang than Nixon turned out to be caricaturing himself in the same way, locker-room slang and all ...

Dangerous Girls

Dale Peck, 3 July 1997

American Pastoral 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 423 pp., £15.99, June 1997, 0 224 05000 1
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... sit down at table with his own salt and pepper. It is not, however, a technique I associate with Philip Roth. Roth’s preferred method has been to bombard the reader with sensory and intellectual stimuli, a gouache painted so stridently that at times it appears to be held in place only by the muscularity of the ...

Hysterical Vigour

Frank Kermode, 23 October 2008

Indignation 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 233 pp., £16.99, September 2008, 978 0 224 08513 7
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... his story, it becomes evident that he is already dead, killed by Chinese bayonets in South Korea. Roth’s young men often come from New Jersey and are the sons of middle-class Jewish fathers: insurance salesmen, say, or jewellers. In this instance the father is a kosher butcher. Marcus helps in the shop, and unless seeking a career in that profession one ...

Z/R

John Banville: Exit Zuckerman, 4 October 2007

Exit Ghost 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 292 pp., £16.99, October 2007, 978 0 224 08173 3
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... As Norman Mailer used vociferously to demand, who will analyse the analysts, if not the artist? Philip Roth, like John Updike, is a survivor from the glory days of the heavyweights, the Hemingways and the Faulkners and the Bellows. His first book, the story collection Goodbye, Columbus, published in 1959, won the National Book Award, a notable ...

The Truth about Consuela

Tim Parks: Death and Philip Roth, 4 November 2010

Nemesis 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 280 pp., £16.99, October 2010, 978 0 224 08953 1
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... themes were tossed off with an insouciance that bordered on slapstick. Twenty years later, Philip Roth’s recent short novels create something of the same impression. Above all, Roth’s chronicling of modern American history is now little more than an alibi: the draft and the Korean War in Indignation, the ...

Desk Job

Deborah Friedell: Bernard Malamud, 15 November 2007

Bernard Malamud: A Writer’s Life 
by Philip Davis.
Oxford, 377 pp., £18.99, September 2007, 978 0 19 927009 5
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... In Philip Roth’s novel The Ghost Writer, 23-year-old Nathan Zuckerman, ‘already contemplating my own massive Bildungsroman’, makes a jaunty pilgrimage to the clapboard farmhouse of Emanuel Lonoff, the great Jewish-American writer whose work Zuckerman admires but aims to surpass. Although Lonoff writes about Jews, he has secluded himself in the goyish New England countryside in the hope of being left alone: ‘I turn sentences around ...

On the Brink

James Lever: Philip Roth, 28 January 2010

The Humbling 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 140 pp., £12.99, November 2009, 978 0 224 08793 3
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... Here’s a novella of slightly over 30,000 very plain words – Philip Roth’s shortest book since The Prague Orgy – structurally straightforward, winnowed of syntactical excitement, sterilised of jokes, rhythmically muted, baldly plotted, low on confrontation, low on tension, low on brilliancies and generally low all round ...
Leaving a Doll’s House: A Memoir 
by Claire Bloom.
Virago, 288 pp., £16.99, October 1996, 1 86049 146 4
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... House contains a long description of Bloom’s troubled, now defunct marriage to the novelist Philip Roth, and it is this pained, painful part of Blooms’ story that probably accounts for the book existing in published form at all. Bloom may have genuinely desired to ‘shed light on an unfinished journey’, but what she has ended up producing ...

Antic Santa

James Francken: Nathan Englander, 28 October 1999

For the Relief of Unbearable Urges 
by Nathan Englander.
Faber, 205 pp., £9.99, May 1999, 0 571 19691 8
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... Orthodox get-up – black hat and gabardine. In ‘Eli, the Fanatic’, the transformation helps Philip Roth connect up some of the leading themes of his short stories: anxiety, desire, separation, the odd, unsettling consequences of changes that are incomplete. There are risks for the writer who imagines what a devout world is like. Nathan Englander ...

I adore your moustache

James Wolcott: Styron’s Letters, 24 January 2013

Selected Letters of William Styron 
edited by Rose Styron and R. Blakeslee Gilpin.
Random House, 643 pp., £24.99, December 2012, 978 1 4000 6806 7
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... Jones, John Updike, Saul Bellow, Gore Vidal, J.D. Salinger, Joseph Heller, the recently retired Philip Roth), whose ghostly father and bearded Neptune disturbing the liquor cabinet deep into the night was Ernest Hemingway. Even those least influenced by Hemingway’s style couldn’t fail to register the impact of his hold on America’s ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: Selling my hair on eBay, 6 January 2022

... me about Worship Street, where I lodged in the early days of Beyond the Fringe in 1961. It was a Philip Webb building (date: 1862) with a workshop on the ground floor and accommodation above, with the lease belonging to Henrietta Roberts (later Dombey), the daughter of Michael Roberts and Janet Adam Smith. What occasioned Rupert’s interest was his having ...

Levi’s Oyster

Karl Miller, 4 August 1988

The Drowned and the Saved 
by Prime Levi, translated by Raymond Rosenthal.
Joseph, 170 pp., £10.95, April 1988, 0 7181 3063 4
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... his death which was recorded in an article published in the London Review (23 October 1986), Philip Roth found him as keen as mustard: here was someone who listened, with the intent stillness of a chipmunk. Levi had a high opinion of the grain of mustard, and of salt. Fascism did not like these substances. He associated the grain of mustard with his ...

Sheer Cloakery

Adam Mars-Jones: Joshua Cohen, 24 September 2015

Book of Numbers 
by Joshua Cohen.
Harvill Secker, 580 pp., £16.99, June 2015, 978 1 84655 865 8
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... ways of conveying ambivalence on the page. Transgression works to clear a space, as for instance Philip Roth’s gleeful repudiation of sexual respectability in and after Portnoy’s Complaint freed him to sift through his inheritance, literary and cultural, and to keep only what he wanted. Misogyny was part of the unstable explosive charge that gave ...

Facts Schmacts

John Sutherland, 16 February 1989

The Facts: A Novelist’s Autobiography 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 328 pp., £12.95, February 1989, 0 224 02593 7
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... in the autobiographical vein. Like salesmen, they are at their most dangerous when most sincere. Roth’s publishers trumpet The Facts: A Novelist’s Autobiography as the facts, a novelist’s autobiography – ‘Roth and his battles, defictionalised and unadorned’. It’s the more suspicious since ...

The Unstoppable Upward

James Wolcott: ‘The Life of Saul Bellow’, 24 January 2019

The Life of Saul Bellow: Love and Strife, 1965-2005 
by Zachary Leader.
Cape, 864 pp., £35, November 2018, 978 0 224 10188 2
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... in the New York Times, ‘Jewish writers – Bernard Malamud, J.D. Salinger, Norman Mailer, Philip Roth, inter alia – have emerged as a dominant movement in our literature. Herzog, in several senses, is the great pay-off book of that movement. It is a masterpiece, the first the movement has produced.’ Herzog not only had critics whirling their ...

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