Philip Roth is an important depiction of this larger than life figure in American literature. Roth appointed and granted complete access and independence to Blake Bailey who spent years poring over Roth's personal archive, interviewing his friends, lovers, and colleagues, and engaging Roth himself in revealing candid conversations. The result is an indelible portrait of an American master and of the post-war literary scene.
Roth emerged from a lower-middle-class Jewish milieu to achieve the heights of literary fame. His career was nearly derailed by his first marriage. Revealed is how he championed the work of dissident novelists behind the Iron Curtain, bringing them to the attention of the west. Bailey examines Roth's competitive friendships with Saul Bellow, John Updike and William Styron. The truths of his florid love life are revealed, 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.