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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 ...

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 ...
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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

Rebecca, take off your gown

Adam Phillips, 8 May 1986

Jewish Self-Hatred: Anti-Semitism and the Hidden Language of the Jews 
by Sander Gilman.
Johns Hopkins, 461 pp., £25.10, March 1986, 0 8018 3276 4
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... catastrophic history in common. ‘Jews are people who are not what anti-semites say they are,’ Philip Roth once wrote, but it is Gilman’s contention in this book that the Jews have tried to become indistinguishable from their enemies: that in the process of assimilation they have had to internalise the anti-semitism of their host nations. Since the ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

Gorgon in Furs

D.D. Guttenplan: Paula Fox, 12 December 2002

Borrowed Finery: A Memoir 
by Paula Fox.
Flamingo, 256 pp., £12, August 2002, 0 00 713724 9
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... Desperate Characters is ‘obviously superior to any novel by Fox’s contemporaries John Updike, Philip Roth and Saul Bellow’. My own reservations lie not with the superlatives, but with the implicit grounds for comparison. If Fox is, in Franzen’s phrase, ‘inarguably great’ – and I believe she is – it isn’t because, for example, she does a ...

Belgravia Cockney

Christopher Tayler: On being a le Carré bore, 25 January 2007

The Mission Song 
by John le Carré.
Hodder, 339 pp., £17.99, September 2006, 9780340921968
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... When John le Carré published A Perfect Spy in 1986, Philip Roth, then spending a lot of time in London, called it ‘the best English novel since the war’. Not being such a fan of A Perfect Spy, I’ve occasionally wondered what Roth’s generous blurb says about the postwar English novel ...

Carry on writing

Stephen Bann, 15 March 1984

The Two of Us 
by John Braine.
Methuen, 183 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 413 51280 0
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An Open Prison 
by J.I.M. Stewart.
Gollancz, 192 pp., £7.95, February 1984, 0 575 03380 0
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Havannah 
by Hugh Thomas.
Hamish Hamilton, 263 pp., £9.95, February 1984, 0 241 11175 7
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Sunrising 
by David Cook.
Secker, 248 pp., £8.50, February 1984, 0 436 10674 4
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Memoirs of an Anti-Semite 
by Gregor von Rezzori, translated by Joachim Neugroschel.
Picador, 282 pp., £7.95, January 1984, 0 330 28325 1
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It’s me, Eddie 
by Edward Limonov, translated by S.L. Campbell.
Picador, 264 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 330 28329 4
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The Anatomy Lesson 
by Philip Roth.
Cape, 291 pp., £8.95, February 1984, 0 224 02960 6
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... work will be a Nouveau Roman. It would be easy to think of this review simply as a prolegomenon to Philip Roth’s new novel, The Anatomy Lesson. This is about history, and Jewishness, and New York. But first and foremost, it is about putting on again (joyously?) the hateful harness. In fact, the hateful harness materialises for us in the surgical collar ...

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