Books

American Pastoral

Philip Roth

Now a major motion picture based on Philip Roth's Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece American Pastoral, starring Ewan McGregor and Jennifer Connelly

‘Swede’ Levov is living the American dream. He glides through life sustained by his devoted family, his demanding yet highly rewarding (and lucrative) business, his sporting prowess, his good looks. He is the embodiment of thriving, post-war America, land of liberty and hope.

Until the sunny day in 1968, when the Swede’s bountiful American luck deserts him.

The tragedy springs from devastatingly close to home. His adored daughter, Merry, has become a stranger to him, a fanatical teenager capable of an outlandishly savage act of political terrorism that plunges the Levov family into the political mayhem of sixties America, and drags them into the underbelly of a seemingly ascendant society.

Rendered powerless by the shocking turn of events, the Swede can only watch as his pastoral idyll is methodically torn apart.

Nemesis

Philip Roth

It's the sweltering summer of 1944, and Newark is in the grip of a terrifying epidemic, threatening the children of the New Jersey city with maiming paralysis, life-long disability, even death.

Decent, athletic twenty-three year old playground director Bucky Cantor is devoted to his charges and ashamed with himself because his weak eyes have excluded him from serving in the war alongside his contemporaries. As polio begins to ravage Bucky's playground - child by helpless child - Roth leads us through every emotion such a pestilence can breed: the fear, the panic, the anger, the bewilderment, the suffering and the pain.

The Humbling

Philip Roth

Simon Axler is one of America's leading classical stage actors, but his talent - his magic - has deserted him. All the spontaneity and unthinking impulsiveness that made him great has been replaced by a paralysing self-consciousness. Overwhelmed, Axler's wife promptly leaves him, and Axler checks into a psychiatric hospital. It is only when he begins an affair with Pegeen - formerly a lesbian of 17 years - that Axler's regeneration (and then his final catastrophe) can begin.

Indignation

Philip Roth

Now a major motion picture starring Sarah Gadon, Logan Lerman and Ben Rosenfield, and adapted for the screen by James Schamus

During the second year of the Korean War in 1951, studious, law-abiding Marcus Messner is beginning his sophomore year on the conservative campus of Ohio's Winesburg College. Marcus has fled from his hometown of Newark, New jersey, trying to escape his father's oppressive love - a love that is also a mad fear of the dangers of adult life soon to face his son. Whilst at college, Marcus has to traverse an American world that isn't his own: facing off against ardent Christian, Dean Cauldwell, and falling in love with the beautiful Olivia Hutton. Indignation gleams with narrative muscle, as it twists and turns unpredictably, and extends - shockingly - beyond the confines of natural life.

Exit Ghost

Philip Roth

Returning to his hometown to find that all has changed, Nathan Zuckerman - incontinent and impotent - comes back to New York, the city he left eleven years before. Walking the streets he quickly makes several connections that explode his carefully protected solitude. In a rash moment, he offers to swap homes with a young couple. And from the moment he meets them, Zuckerman wants to exchange his solitude for the erotic allure of the young woman Jamie, who draws him back to all that he thought he had left behind: intimacy, and the play of heart and body.

Suddenly involved, as he never wanted or intended to be involved again, with love, mourning, desire and animosity, Zuckerman plays out an interior drama of vivid and poignant possibilities.

Sabbath's Theater

Philip Roth

Once a scandalously inventive puppeteer, Mickey Sabbath at sixty-four is still defiantly antagonistic and exceedingly libidinous. But after the death of his long-time mistress, Sabbath embarks on a turbulent journey into his past. Bereft and grieving, besieged by the ghosts of those who loved and hated him most, he contrives a succession of farcical disasters that take him to the brink of madness and extinction.

Reading Myself And Others

Philip Roth

Philip Roth's writing career spans a remarkable five decades, a period that has seen him rise to become one of the greatest chroniclers of post-war American life. Collected here are some of the finest interviews, essays and articles discussing his own fiction and the range of controversies that it sparked, including his long interview with the Paris Review. Here too are Roth's writings on American fiction, Milan Kundera, baseball, and his deep admiration for Franz Kafka. Coursing through each of these pieces is the Sheer Playfulness and Deadly Seriousness that have defined Roth's writing for half a century.

When She Was Good

Philip Roth

When she was still a child, Lucy Nelson had her irresponsible, alcoholic father thrown in jail. Since then, Lucy has become a furious adolescent - raging against middle-class life and provincial American piety - intent on reforming the men around her: especially her incompetent mama's boy of a husband, Roy. As time rolls on, Lucy struggles to free herself of the terrible disappointment engendered by her father, and is forever yearning for the man he could never be. It is with scalpel-like precision that Roth depicts the rage, the hatred and the ferocity of feeling that soon takes hold of Lucy's life.

Letting Go

Philip Roth

Gabe Wallach, freshly discharged from the Korean War army, reeling from his mother's recent death, and thus freed from old attachments, is hungrily seeking new ones. He's drawn to Paul Herz, a fellow graduate in literature, and to Libby - Paul's moody, Catholic-turned-Jewish wife. Gabe wonders: how to reconcile the ordered 'world of feeling' found in books with the anarchy of life, responsible adulthood, and his own love affairs? When Gabe meets Martha Reganhart, a spirited, outspoken, divorced mother of two, she poses the greatest challenge that he, and his moral enthusiasm, will face.

Letting Go is Philip Roth's blistering first full-length novel.

The Facts

Philip Roth

How does a novelist write about the facts of his life after spending years fictionalising those facts with irrepressible daring and originality?

What becomes of 'the facts' after they have been smelted down for art's sake? In The Facts - Philip Roth's idiosyncratic autobiography - we find out. Focusing on five episodes in his life, Roth gives a portrait of his secure city childhood in Newark, through to his first marriage, clashes with the Jewish establishment over Goodbye, Columbus and his writing of Portnoy's Complaint. In true Rothian style, his fictional self Nathan Zuckerman is allowed the final, coruscating word of reply.

Everyman

Philip Roth

Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

Everyman is a candidly intimate yet universal story of loss, regret and stoicism.

The novel takes its title from a classic of early English drama, whose theme is the summoning of the living to death.

The fate of Roth's everyman is traced from his first shocking confrontation with death on the idyllic beaches of his childhood summers, through the family trials and professional achievements of his vigorous adulthood, and into his old age when he is stalked with physical woes.

The terrain of this powerful novel is the human body. Its subject is the common experience that terrifies us all.

Goodbye, Columbus

Philip Roth

Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction

Philip Roth's prize-winning first book instantly established its author's reputation as a writer of explosive wit, merciless insight and humane 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 and fall 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 - sometimes iconoclastic, sometimes elegiac - that crackle with irreverent originality and display Roth's blazing early talent.

The Plot Against America

Philip Roth

‘In his 2004 novel, The Plot Against America, Roth precisely described the sinister and chilling nightmare in which the United States now finds itself… America has not read enough of Philip Roth’ Bernard-Henri Lévy

‘Many passages in The Plot Against America echo feelings voiced today by vulnerable Americans – immigrants and minorities as alarmed by Trump’s election as the Jews of Newark are frightened by Lindbergh’s’ New Yorker

When the renowned aviation hero and rabid isolationist Charles A. Lindbergh defeats Franklin Roosevelt by a landslide in the 1940 presidential election, fear invades every Jewish household in America. Not only has Lindbergh publicly blamed the Jews for pushing America towards a pointless war with Nazi Germany, but, upon taking office as the 33rd president of the United States, he negotiates a cordial 'understanding' with Adolf Hitler, guaranteeing peaceful relations between the two nations.

What then follows is the alternative America of this startling counterfactual novel by Philip Roth, who recounts what it was like for his Newark family during the menacingly anti-Semitic years of the Lindbergh presidency. Jewish families are shaken violently apart, whilst America is oblivious to its own dark metamorphosis.

My Life as a Man

Philip Roth

A fiction-within-a-fiction, My Life as a Man centres on the fraught marriage of Peter, a gifted young writer and Maureen Tarnopol, the woman who wants to be his muse but who instead becomes his nemesis. Their union is based on fraud and powered by moral blackmail. And yet, the the couple's relationship 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 scorching truths, acts of weakness and shocking cruelty, Philip Roth creates a fierce tragedy about a fatal impasse between a man and a woman.

The Counterlife

Philip Roth

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction

The Counterlife is about people living their dreams of renewal and escape, some of them going so far as to risk their lives to alter their destinies. Wherever they find themselves, the characters of The Counterlife are tempted by the prospect of an alternative existence.

Illuminating these lives in free-fall and transformation is the acrobat mind of novelist Nathan Zuckerman. His is the sceptical, enveloping intelligence that calculates the price that's paid in the struggle to change personal fortune and reshape history, whether in a dentist's office in suburban New Jersey; a tradition-bound English Village in Gloucestershire; a church in London's West End; or in a tiny desert settlement in Israel's occupied West Bank. Shot through with head-turning dualities, as daring as it is moving, The Counterlife reinvents the novel with style, wit and grace.

Zuckerman Unbound

Philip Roth

Following the wild success of his novel, Carnovsky, Nathan Zuckerman has been catapulted into the literary limelight. As he ventures out onto the streets of Manhattan he finds himself accosted on all sides, the target of admonishers, advisers, would-be literary critics, and – worst of all – fans.

An incompetent celebrity, ill at ease with his newfound fame, and unsure of how to live up to his fictional creation’s notoriety, Zuckerman flounders his way through a high-profile affair, the disintegration of his family life, and fends off the attentions of his most tenacious fan yet, as the turbulent decade of the sixties draws to a close around him.

But beneath the uneasy glamour are the spectres of the recently murdered Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., and an unsettled Zuckerman feels himself watched…

The Ghost Writer

Philip Roth

When talented young writer Nathan Zuckerman makes his pilgrimage to sit at the feet of his hero, the reclusive master of American Literature, E. I. Lonoff, he soon finds himself enmeshed in the great Jewish writer's domestic life, with all its complexity, artifice and drive for artistic truth.

As Nathan sits in breathlessly awkward conversation with his idol, a glimpse of a dark-haired beauty through a closing doorway leaves him reeling. He soon learns that the entrancing vision is Amy Bellette, but her position in the Lonoff household - student? mistress? - remains tantalisingly unclear. Over a disturbed and confusing dinner, Nathan gleans snippets of Amy’s haunting Jewish background, and begins to draw his own fantastical conclusions…

Shop Talk

Philip Roth

Philip Roth is the voice of our times.

In a sequence of intimate conversations with some of the most influential and insightful writers of the twentieth century, Roth explores the importance of region, politics and history in their work and that of their predecessors.

What qualities helped Primo Levi survive the demented laboratory of Auschwitz? What does Milan Kundera make of being denounced as a subversive writer in communist Czechoslovakia? What does Edna O'Brien think drove generations of Irish writers into exile?

Between colleagues and friends there is a startling candour seldom found in formal interviews, a sense that the guard is dropped, the ideas unbounded, as the conversations crackle with an urgency of ideas. Shop Talk is a literary symposium of the highest calibre, profoundly revelatory and consistently enlightening.

The Dying Animal

Philip Roth

'This is a vicious, furious book, unapologetically not of this age - it is also horribly funny and unflinchingly honest' New Statesman

David Kepesh, white-haired, and now in his sixties, is an eminent cultural critic on NPR radio and a formidable lecturer at a New York college. For years he's been casually, almost habitually, sleeping with the more spirited of his female students, though with an aesthete's critical distance. But now he's met Consuela Castillo, a twenty-four-year-old Cuban student of such head-turning beauty, that Kapesh finds himself dragged helplessly into a quagmire of sexual jealousy and loss.

The Dying Animal is a virtuoso performance from Philip Roth, following Kapesh through the tumult of erotic lust and the search for freedom, shackled by a mortal human body.

The Human Stain

Philip Roth

'The work of a genius at full throttle' Sunday Telegraph

It is 1998, the year America is plunged into a frenzy of prurience by the impeachment of a president, and in a small New England town a distinguished classics professor, Coleman Silk, is forced to retire when his colleagues allege that he is a racist. The charge is unfounded, the persecution needless, but the truth about Silk would astonish even his most virulent accuser.

Coleman Silk has a secret, one which has been kept for fifty years from his wife, his four children, his colleagues, and his friends, including the writer Nathan Zuckerman. It is Zuckerman who comes upon Silk's secret, and sets out to unearth his former buried life, piecing the biographical fragments back together. This is against backdrop of seismic shifts in American history, which take on real, human urgency as Zuckerman discovers more and more about Silk's past and his futile search for renewal and regeneration.

Philip Roth

Biography

In 1997 Philip Roth won the Pulitzer Prize for American Pastoral. In 1998 he received the National Medal of Arts at the White House, and in 2002 the highest award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Gold Medal in Fiction, previously awarded to John Dos Passos, William Faulkner and Saul Bellow, among others. He has twice won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has won the PEN/Faulkner Award three times. In 2005 The Plot Against America received the Society of American Historians’ Prize for ‘the outstanding historical novel on an American theme for 2003–2004’.

Recently Roth received PEN’s two most prestigious prizes: in 2006 the PEN/Nabokov Award ‘for a body of work . . . of enduring originality and consummate craftsmanship’ and in 2007 the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, given to a writer whose ‘scale of achievement over a sustained career . . . places him or her in the highest rank of American literature’. In 2011 Roth won the International Man Booker Prize.

Roth is the only living American writer to have his work published in a comprehensive, definitive edition by the Library of America.