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Philip Roth

By

Philip Roth

© Nancy Crampton

Birth:

Philip Roth was born March 19, 1933 in Newark, NJ.

Philip Roth's Background:

Philip Roth grew up the son of first-generation American Jews in New Jersey and attended Bucknell Univerity. He pursued graduate studies at the University of Chicago where he received his MA in English Literature. Roth was a professor at the University of Iowa, Princeton University, and the University of Pennsylvania before retiring from teaching in 1991.


It was while at the University of Chicago that Roth met his first wife, Margaret Martinson, who according to Roth obtained a urine sample from a pregnant woman in order to trick him into believing she was pregnant, herself (an episode that Roth later used in When She Was Good). The couple was married in 1959 and separated in 1963. Martinson, who died in a car crash five years later, was a lasting influence on Roth's writing, particularly in his creation of his female characters.

Philip Roth's Writing:

Philip Roth has written extensively on the modern Jewish experience. His first book, Goodbye Columbus, a novella and collection of stories that Roth published at the age of 26, won the National Book Award in 1960 and the undivided attention of the media and literary community thereafter. This attention was intensified and colored with the publication of his fourth book, Portnoy's Complaint, which was hailed by some but criticized by many for its sexual explicitness.


In the 1970s, Roth gave birth to an alter-ego, Nathan Zuckerman. As a character in his novels, Zuckerman served as a vehicle for much of the autobiographical and self-referential material that the author is famous for including. Zuckerman appeared consistently in Roth's novels well into the 1980s and again in his Pulitzer Prize winning novel, American Pastoral in 1998.


Roth won one literary prize after another for a succession of four books in the 1990's: Patrimony won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1991, Operation Shylock won the PEN/Faulkner in 1993, Sabbath's Theater won the National Book Award in 1995, and American Pastoral won the Pulitzer Prize in 1998.


Roth has continued to be as prolific in recent years. In 2004, Roth penned The Plot Against America, an alternative history in which he posited the notion of Charles Lindbergh's presidential campaign victory in 1940 and the ensuing anti-semitic policies enacted in the United States. The Plot Against America was followed with Everyman in 2006, a short meditation on mortality. 2007's Exit Ghost, a return to the Zuckerman novels in which Nathan Zuckerman returns to his hometown of New York to find how everything has changed, is purported to be the last of the Zuckerman novels.


Indignation (2008), Philip Roth's 29th book, follows a young Jewish man from New Jersey to college in Ohio as he tries to avoid being drafted for service in the Korean War.

Philip Roth's Recent Works:

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