If You've Never Read Philip Roth, Here's Where to Start

Philip Roth speaking at The PEN  Allen Foundation Literary Service Award 2013

Philip Roth speaking at The PEN Allen Foundation Literary Service Award 2013

Until his abrupt retirement, Roth was a dedicated, prolific author who often published a book a year and was generous to writers from other countries.

The New York Times, citing a close friend, confirmed the death of the writer, who lived in New York and CT.

He first achieved fame for his 1969 novel "Portnoy's Complaint", about a horny teenager named Alexander Portnoy. Some anxious that his work would endanger American Jews, providing fodder for anti-Semites. Asked which were his favourite books, Roth mentioned two, Sabbath's Theater (1995), the story of Mickey Sabbath, who is 64 going on 17, antagonistic and libidinous, which several critics hated, and Pastoral.

Other works adapted into film include "Goodbye, Columbus", starring Richard Benjamin and Ali McGraw, "Potnoy's Complaint", starring Benjamin and Karen Black, "The Human Stain" with Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman, "The Dying Animal, ' adapted as "Elegy"; starring Penélope Cruz and Ben Kingsley and 'The Humbling" with Al Pacino and Greta Gerwig. By his early 20s, Roth was writing fiction - at first casually, soon with primary passion, with Roth observing he could never really be happy unless working on a novel, inside the "fun house" of his imagination.

Roth won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his acclaimed novel "American Pastoral". Roth was known for work that was amusing, often gross, and deeply connected to his Jewish roots.

"From enfant awful to elder statesman".

The author of more than 25 books, Roth was an uncompromising realist and satirist, confronting readers in a bold, direct style that scorned false sentiment or hopes for heavenly reward. In 2014, he declared after a reading at New York's 92nd Street Y that he was done with public appearances.

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His works explored his perception of America and American themes.

Although much of his work appeared autobiographical, Mr. Roth said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that his personal history represented only a starting point.

In his over 50 years in showbiz, he wrote more than 30 books and won countless awards for his novels. Jewish leaders' outrage at Roth peaked a decade later with Portnoy's Complaint and its exploration of lustful Jewish paranoia - including a scene where the protagonist pleasures himself with a piece of liver.

In 2004, Roth published "The Plot Against America", about a family of American Jews in Newark, New Jersey, who are strong supporters of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. "His endings tend to the tragic".

Roth, however, often demurred when it was suggested that he should be defined as an American Jewish writer.

'I don't want to read any more of it, write any more of it, and I don't even want to talk about it anymore. A panel moderator berated him for his comic portrayals of Jews, asking Roth if he would have written the same books in Nazi Germany.

Nevertheless, appreciation abounded for Roth's contributions to the Jewish world, including his championing of writers from Eastern Europe.

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