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Philip Roth Biography

(1933– ), Goodbye Colombus, Letting Go, When She Was Good, Portnoy's Complaint, Our Gang

American novelist, born in Newark, New Jersey, educated at Bucknell and Chicago Universities. He taught creative writing at Iowa and Princeton Universities before becoming a full-time writer. His collection of an eponymous novella and five short stories, Goodbye Colombus (1959), won him immediate success for its sensitive portrayal of the problems facing young Jewish-Americans. Many novels followed, including Letting Go (1962) and When She Was Good (1967). Portnoy's Complaint (1969) brought him notoriety with its focus on masturbation and its generally acerbic view of the levels of alienation faced by the occupants of Jewish-American society. Our Gang (1971) was a vicious satire of Richard Nixon's presidency, whilst The Breast (1972) was a Freudian allegory about a professor of comparative literature who turns into a massive female breast. The Great American Novel (1973), a long spoof of all things American, parodied the general political climate through the allegory of the decline and fall of a baseball team. In My Life as a Man (1974) the devastations of a failed marriage become the focus. The Professor of Desire (1977) is another novel about a search for the solutions to a failed world in sexual adventure. There followed his semi-autobiographical Nathan Zuckerman sequence, in which a Jewish-American writer comes to terms with personal failure and the wider implications of being Jewish in a post-Holocaust world. The sequence comprises The Ghost Writer (1979), Zuckerman Bound (1981), and The Anatomy Lesson (1983), which, together with The Prague Orgy (1985), were republished as Zuckerman Bound: A Trilogy and Epilogue (1985). After The Counter-Life (1986), a novel which presents a vertiginous display of ‘post-modern’ games with signification, appeared The Facts: A Novelist's Autobiography (1989), an autobiography. Deception (1990) focuses on the adultery of an illict love affair between Philip and his mistress that takes place in a bare room. He has also written two plays, Heard Melodies Are Sweet (1958) and The President Addresses the Nation (1973). In addition to promoting the work of many Eastern European writers through his efforts as an editor, he has ventured into writing critical essays in Reading Myself and Others (1975), which produced many useful insights into his creative life. His latest works include Operation Shylock: A Confession (1993) and Sabbath's Theater (1995).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: M(acha)L(ouis) Rosenthal Biography to William Sansom [Norman Trevor Sansom] Biography