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 sanc