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Philip Roth


Philip Roth is another of those writers that I have serious doubts about and who, I suspect, will be little remembered in fifty years. See Overrated Writers, Part One: Philip Roth for more details. This site claims that Goodbye Columbus is a great work. Don’t see it, myself. It’s not that I think that he is a lousy writer, in the way that I think Updike is a lousy writer. I just think that he is not a very good writer and certainly not as good as his current reputation attributes to him. Like the aforementioned Updike, he seems to be very good at picking on what American mid-brow readers like best. Overrated Writers, Part One: Philip Roth says that it is paranoia and that it is certainly part of it but it is far less subtle than that. Like Updike, it is first and foremost sex. Wanking and tits are the subject of two of his novels (ha, ha) and allow Americans to not only read about two taboo subjects but to enjoy them, while pretending that it is art. Like Updike, he does his academia novel, his terrorist novel, his Jewish novelist novel, even his Rabbit novel. Unlike Updike, he is quite funny and manages to satirise (in a very unsubtle way) Richard Nixon, amongst others. Unlike Updike, he also does America’s other great pastime (after wanking and obsessing about terrorism), namely baseball, producing a pretty good novel. Read the novels if you like midbrow novels about sex but it ain’t great literature, Virginia, and don’t pretend that it is. However, he is a better writer than Updike.

Philip Roth was born in 1933 in Newark, New Jersey. He studied English at Bucknell and took his M. A. at the University of Chicago. After two years in the military, he taught literature at various universities, primarily the University of Pennsylvania. He had literary success immediately, with his first novel, Goodbye Columbus, winning the National Book Award. His main theme used to be sex but now death rapidly overtook it. He died in 2018.

Books about Roth

Bake Bailey: Philip Roth: The Biography

Other links

Philip Roth
Philip Roth
Philip Roth
The Philip Roth Society
Featured Author: Philip Roth
The long road home (Guardian profile)
Philip Roth Blows Up
Philip Roth: Still fascinated by himself
Overrated Writers, Part One: Philip Roth
Philip Roth predicts novel will be minority cult within 25 years
Judge withdraws over Philip Roth’s Booker win


New York Times
The Guardian
The New Yorker
The New Yorker by Zadie Smith
The Guardian – 14 writers on their favourite Philip Roth novels
The Independent
New Republic


1959 Goodbye, Columbus (novel)
1962 Letting Go (novel)
1967 When She Was Good (novel)
1969 Portnoy’s Complaint (novel)
1971 Our Gang (novel)
1972 The Breast (novel)
1973 The Great American Novel (novel)
1974 My Life As a Man (novel)
1975 Reading Myself and Others
1977 The Professor of Desire (novel)
1979 The Ghost Writer (novel)
1980 A Philip Roth Reader
1980 Novotny’s Pain (story)
1981 Zuckerman Unbound (novel)
1983 The Anatomy Lesson (novel)
1985 The Prague Orgy (novel)
1986 The Counterlife (novel)
1988 The Facts: A Novelist’s Autobiography (novel)
1990 Deception: A Novel (novel)
1991 Patrimony: A Memoir (memoir)
1993 Operation Shylock: A Confession (novel)
1995 Sabbath’s Theater (novel)
1997 American Pastoral (novel)
1998 I Married a Communist (novel)
2000 The Human Stain (novel)
2001 The Dying Animal (novel)
2001 Shop Talk (interviews with other writers)
2004 The Plot Against America (novel)
2006 Everyman (novel)
2007 Exit Ghost (novel)
2008 Indignation (novel)
2009 The Humbling (novel)
2010 Nemesis (novel)
2012 Notes for My Biographer (memoirs)
2017 Philip Roth – Why Write? : Collected Nonfiction 1960-2013