Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book


Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Philip Milton Roth  

Pen Name: Philip Roth

Genre: Fiction

Audience: Adult;

Born: March 19, 1933 in Newark, New Jersey


-- Wikipedia -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Roth
-- Philip Milton Roth on WorldCat -- http://www.worldcat.org/search?q=philip++milton+roth


Illinois Connection

Roth attended graduate school at the University of Chicago and worked there briefly after graduating as an instructor in the university's writing program.

Biographical and Professional Information

Roth is an American Novelist. He was born March 19, 1933 of Jewish-American parents, Roth grew up in the lower-middle-class neighborhood of Weequahic in Newark, New Jersey. After graduating from Weequahic High School, he attended Newark College, Rutgers University from 1950 to 1951 before transferring to Bucknell. At Bucknell, Roth founded and edited the literary magazine, Et Cetera, which published his first stories. In 1954 he graduated magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Bucknell University with a B.A. in English. That same year, “The Day it Snowed,” appeared in The Chicago Review, marking the first time Roth’s fiction was published outside the journal he founded.With a published story in a major literary magazine, Roth continued his studies at the University of Chicago. There, he met Saul Bellow, who briefly became his mentor. After graduating with an M.A. in English literature, Roth served in the United States Army from 1955 to 1956 and continued writing short stories, criticism, and reviews for publications like The New Republic. He also published his first book, Goodbye, Columbus. Roth embarked on an academic career in 1960 and went on to hold teaching positions at Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Princeton University, State University of New York, Stony Brook University, and the University of Pennsylvania. Since 1988, he has been Distinguished Professor at Hunter College. Roth won critical recognition for Goodbye, Columbus, but it wasn’t until the publication of his third novel, Portnoy’s Complaint in 1969 that he became a commercial success. In Portnoy’s Complaint, a New York Time’s bestseller, Alexander Portnoy reveals to a therapist his sexual appetite and adventures, along with his ensuing guilt.Roth has published 27 novels and has received over thirty major literary awards and honors. He was a National Book Award Finalist in Fiction four times from 1975 to 1987 and won his second National Book Award in Fiction for Sabbath’s Theater in 1995. His National Book Award Finalist books are My Life as a Man (1975), The Ghost Writer (1980), The Anatomy Lesson (1984), and The Counterlife (1987).Roth’s My Life as a Man is considered the first of his work that dealt with the idea of the connection between a writer's life and work. In a book review in the New York Times (June 2, 1974) Morris Dickstein wrote, “No writer, not even Mailer or Lowell, has contributed more to the confessional climate than Philip Roth.” With The Ghost Writer, Roth introduced Nathan Zuckerman, a character who went on to feature prominently in three later novels and an epilogue. The Ghost Writer explored how one changes from years spent working with words. (http://www.curledup.com/zuckboun.htm). Incidentally, Roth did not want The Ghost Writer submitted to the National Book Awards, known as the American Book Awards at the time, because he thought the process was too commercial and downgraded the importance of literary art. Norman Mailer and William Styron joined Roth in the protest. Roth continued with the character Nathan Zuckerman in The Anatomy Lesson, in which Nathan is struck with a mysterious illness and writer’s block. In The Counterlife Roth wrote about how human beings create lives for themselves and how their actions are based on other people’s conceptions.Roth’s second National Book Award winning book, Sabbath’s Theatre, is about an aging, libidinous ex-puppeteer whose mistress’s death triggers a turbulent journey into his past. He explores these lives by reacting with or against other people's ideas of one another. In 2002 Roth was the recipient of the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Bestowed by the Board of Directors of the National Book Foundation, the Medal is given to a person who has enriched America’s literary heritage over a life of service, or corpus of work. Philip Roth continues to produce extraordinary works of fiction and is the only living American writer to have his work published in a comprehensive, definitive edition by the Library of America. The last of the eight volume collection is scheduled for publication in 2013.*Taken from the ''National Book Foundation Presents: Philip Roth: 75th Birthday Tribute''


Published Works Expand for more information


Titles At Your Library

Goodbye, Columbus : And Five Short Stories (Vintage International)
ISBN: 0679748261

Vintage. 1993

Roth's award-winning first book instantly established its author's reputation as a writer of explosive wit, merciless insight, and a fierce compassion for even the most self-deluding of his characters.

Goodbye, Columbus is the story of Neil Klugman and pretty, spirited Brenda Patimkin, he of poor Newark, she of suburban Short Hills, who meet one summer break and dive into an affair that is as much about social class and suspicion as it is about love. The novella is accompanied by five short stories that range in tone from the iconoclastic to the astonishingly tender and that illuminate the subterranean conflicts between parents and children and friends and neighbors in the American Jewish diaspora.

Letting Go
ISBN: 0679764178

Vintage. 1997

Letting Go is Roth's first full-length novel, published just after Goodbye, Columbus, when he was twenty-nine. Set in 1950s Chicago, New York, and Iowa city, Letting Go presents as brilliant a fictional portrait as we have of a mid-century America defined by social and ethical constraints and by moral compulsions conspicuously different from those of today.

Newly discharged from the Korean War army, reeling from his mother's recent death, freed from old attachments and hungrily seeking others, Gabe Wallach is drawn to Paul Herz, a fellow graduate student in literature, and to Libby, Paul's moody, intense wife. Gabe's desire to be connected to the ordered "world of feeling" that he finds in books is first tested vicariously by the anarchy of the Herzes' struggles with responsible adulthood and then by his own eager love affairs. Driven by the desire to live seriously and act generously, Gabe meets an impassable test in the person of Martha Reganhart, a spirited, outspoken, divorced mother of two, a formidable woman who, according to critic James Atlas, is masterfully portrayed with "depth and resonance."

The complex liason between Gabe and Martha and Gabe's moral enthusiasm for the trials of others are at the heart of this tragically comic work.

When She Was Good
ISBN: 0679759255

Vintage. 1995

In this funny and chilling novel, the setting is a small town in the 1940s Midwest, and the subject is the heart of a wounded and ferociously moralistic young woman, one of those implacable American moralists whose "goodness" is a terrible disease.

When she was still a child, Lucy Nelson had her alcoholic failure of a father thrown in jail. Ever since then she has been trying to reform the men around her, even if that ultimately means destroying herself in the process. With his unerring portraits of Lucy and her hapless, childlike husband, Roy, Roth has created an uncompromising work of fictional realism, a vision of provincial American piety, yearning, and discontent that is at once pitiless and compassionate.

Portnoy's Complaint
ISBN: 0679756450

Vintage. 1994

The groundbreaking novel that propelled its author to literary stardom: told in a continuous monologue from patient to psychoanalyst, Philip Roth's masterpiece draws us into the turbulent mind of one lust-ridden young Jewish bachelor named Alexander Portnoy.

Portnoy's Complaint n. [after Alexander Portnoy (1933- )] A disorder in which strongly-felt ethical and altruistic impulses are perpetually warring with extreme sexual longings, often of a perverse nature. Spielvogel says: 'Acts of exhibitionism, voyeurism, fetishism, auto-eroticism and oral coitus are plentiful as a consequence of the patient's "morality," however, neither fantasy nor act issues in genuine sexual gratification, but rather in overriding feelings of shame and the dread of retribution, particularly in the form of castration.' (Spielvogel, O. "The Puzzled Penis," Internationale Zeitschrift fr Psychoanalyse, Vol. XXIV, p. 909.) It is believed by Spielvogel that many of the symptoms can be traced to the bonds obtaining in the mother-child relationship.

Our Gang
ISBN: 0375726845

Vintage. 2001

A ferocious political satire in the great tradition, Our Gang is Philip Roth’s brilliantly indignant response to the phenomenon of Richard M. Nixon.

In the character of Trick E. Dixon, Roth shows us a man who outdoes the severest cynic, a peace-loving Quaker and believer in the sanctity of human life who doesn’t have a problem with killing unarmed women and children in self-defense. A master politician with an honest sneer, he finds himself battling the Boy Scouts, declaring war on Pro-Pornography Denmark, all the time trusting in the basic indifference of the voting public.

The Breast
ISBN: 0679749012

Vintage. 1994

Like a latter-day Gregor Samsa, Professor David Kepesh wakes up one morning to find that he has been transformed. But where Kafka's protagonist turned into a giant beetle, the narrator of Philip Roth's richly conceived fantasy has become a 155-pound female breast. What follows is a deliriously funny yet touching exploration of the full implications of Kepesh's metamorphosis—a daring, heretical book that brings us face to face with the intrinsic strangeness of sex and subjectivity.

The Great American Novel
ISBN: 0679749063

Vintage. 1995

Gil Gamesh, the only pitcher who ever literally tried to kill the umpire. The ex-con first baseman, John Baal, "The Babe Ruth of the Big House," who never hit a home run sober. If you've never heard of them—or of the Ruppert Mundys, the only homeless big-league ball team in American history—it's because of the Communist plot, and the capitalist scandal, that expunged the entire Patriot League from baseball memory.

In this ribald, richly imagined, and wickedly satiric novel, Roth turns baseball's status as national pastime and myth into an occasion for unfettered picaresque farce, replete with heroism and perfidy, ebullient wordplay and a cast of characters that includes the House Un-American Activities Committee.

My Life As a Man (Vintage International)
ISBN: 067974827X

Vintage. 1994

A fiction-within-a-fiction, a labyrinthine edifice of funny, mournful, and harrowing meditations on the fatal impasse between a man and a woman, My Life as a Man is Roth's most blistering novel.

At its heart lies the marriage of Peter and Maureen Tarnopol, a gifted young writer and the woman who wants to be his muse but who instead is his nemesis. Their union is based on fraud and shored up by moral blackmail, but it is so perversely durable that, long after Maureen's death, Peter is still trying—and failing—to write his way free of it. Out of desperate inventions and cauterizing truths, acts of weakness, tenderheartedness, and shocking cruelty, Philip Roth creates a work worthy of Strindberg—a fierce tragedy of sexual need and blindness.

The Professor of Desire
ISBN: 0679749004

Vintage. 1994

As a student in college, David Kepesh styles himself "a rake among scholars, a scholar among rakes." Little does he realize how prophetic this motto will be—or how damning. For as Philip Roth follows Kepesh from the domesticity of childhood into the vast wilderness of erotic possibility, from a ménage à trois in London to the throes of loneliness in New York, he creates a supremely intelligent, affecting, and often hilarious novel about the dilemma of pleasure: where we seek it why we flee it and how we struggle to make a truce between dignity and desire.

Zuckerman Unbound
ISBN: 0679748997

Vintage. 1995

Now in his mid-thirties, Nathan Zuckerman, a would-be recluse despite his newfound fame as a bestselling author, ventures onto the streets of Manhattan in the final year of the turbulent sixties. Not only is he assumed by his fans to be his own fictional satyr, Gilbert Carnovsky ("Hey, you do all that stuff in that book?"), but he also finds himself the target of admonishers, advisers, and sidewalk literary critics. The recent murders of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., lead an unsettled Zuckerman to wonder if "target" may be more than a figure of speech.

In Zuckerman Unbound—the second volume of the trilogy and epilogue Zuckerman Bound—the notorious novelist Nathan Zuckerman retreats from his oldest friends, breaks his marriage to a virtuous woman, and damages, perhaps irreparably, his affectionate connection to his younger brother...and all because of his great good fortune!

The Anatomy Lesson
ISBN: 0679749020

Vintage. 1996

At forty, the writer Nathan Zuckerman comes down with a mysterious affliction—pure pain, beginning in his neck and shoulders, invading his torso, and taking possession of his spirit. Zuckerman, whose work was his life, is unable to write a line. Now his work is trekking from one doctor to another, but none can find a cause for the pain and nobody can assuage it. Zuckerman himself wonders if the pain can have been caused by his own books. And while he is wondering, his dependence on painkillers grows into an addiction to vodka, marijuana, and Percodan.

The Anatomy Lesson
is a great comedy of illness written in what the English critic Hermione Lee has described as "a manner at once...brash and thoughtful... lyrical and wry, which projects through comic expostulations and confessions...a knowing, humane authority." The third volume of the trilogy and epilogue Zuckerman Bound, The Anatomy Lesson provides some of the funniest scenes in all of Roth's fiction as well as some of the fiercest.

The Prague Orgy
ISBN: 0679749039

Vintage. 1995

In quest of the unpublished manuscript of a martyred Yiddish writer, the American novelist Nathan Zuckerman travels to Soviet-occupied Prague in the mid-1970s. There, in a nation straightjacketed by totalitarian Communism, he discovers a literary predicament, marked by institutionalized oppression, that is rather different from his own. He also discovers, among the oppressed writers with whom he quickly becomes embroiled in a series of bizarre and poignant adventures, an appealingly perverse kind of heroism.

The Prague Orgy
, consisting of entries from protagonist Nathan Zuckerman's notebooks recording his sojourn among these outcast artists, completes the trilogy and epilogue Zuckerman bound. It provides a startling ending to Roth's intricately designed magnum opus on the unforeseen consequences of art.

This Vintage edition