'Superlative... definitive and genuinely gripping' SUNDAY TIMES
'Utterly engrossing' EVENING STANDARD
'Compulsively readable... Beautifully written... Definitive' OBSERVER
Appointed by Philip Roth and granted complete access and independence, Blake Bailey spent years poring over Roth's personal archive, interviewing his friends, lovers, and colleagues, and engaging Roth himself in breathtakingly candid conversations. The result is an indelible portrait of an American master and of the post-war literary scene.
Bailey shows how Roth emerged from a lower-middle-class Jewish milieu to achieve the heights of literary fame, how his career was nearly derailed by his catastrophic first marriage, and how he championed the work of dissident novelists behind the Iron Curtain. Bailey examines Roth's rivalrous friendships with Saul Bellow, John Updike and William Styron, and reveals the truths of his florid love life, culminating in his almost-twenty-year relationship with actress Claire Bloom, who pilloried Roth in her 1996 memoir, Leaving a Doll's House. Tracing Roth's path from realism to farce to metafiction to the tragic masterpieces of the American Trilogy, Bailey explores Roth's engagement with nearly every aspect of post-war American culture.
*A 'BOOKS OF 2021' PICK IN THE OBSERVER, GUARDIAN, FINANCIAL TIMES, SUNDAY TIMES, EVENING STANDARD, SPECTATOR AND NEW STATESMAN*
Superlative... Bailey's account is definitive and genuinely gripping to boot... He leads us lucidly through a dense palimpsest of overlapping drafts, fictional identities, literary feuds and women.
Compulsively readable... Beautifully written... It is hard to imagine a book that will come up with a more definitive series of answers than this one.
[A] monumental and engrossing book... Bailey brings new information and a fresh perspective... No other biographer will have known Roth so well.
Bailey's utterly engrossing biography ... shows Roth led a life just as strange and intense as his fictionalised alter egos.
It's a miracle that he has published so lucid a book just three years after Roth's death - and one so packed with good anecdotes and jokes... It's an achievement for Bailey to have gained as much distance as he has.