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Beyond the Wand
Philosophy Of Modern Song
Philip Roth - one of the most renowned writers of his generation - hardly needs introduction. From his debut, Goodbye, Columbus, which won the National Book Award, to his Pulitzer Prize-winning American Pastoral, to his eternally inventive later works such as Exit Ghost and Nemesis, Roth has produced some of the greatest literature of the past hundred years. And yet there has been no major critical work about him, until now. Here, at last, is the story of Roth's creative life. Claudia Roth Pierpont tells an engaging story even as she delves into the many complexities of Roth's work and the controversies it has raised. This is not a biography - though it contains many biographical details - but something more rewarding: an attempt to understand a great writer through his art. Pierpont, who has known Roth for several years, peppers her gracefully written and carefully researched account with conversational details, providing insights and anecdotes previously accessible only to a very few, touching on Roth's family, his inspirations, his critics, the full range of his fiction, and his literary friendships with such figures as Saul Bellow and John Updike. Roth Unbound is a major achievement, a fascinating and highly readable work that will set the standard for Roth scholarship for years to come.
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Roth Unbound has two particularly strong selling points. It is the first full-length study to be published since Roth's announcement that Nemesis would be his final novel. It is therefore the first to cover what currently looks to be his entire oeuvre... Secondly, Roth has made himself available as a commentator on - if not wholly a collaborator with - Pierpont's project, with the result that her account of his life and works is supplemented with marginal illuminations from her subject himself. -- Bharat Tandon * Literary Review * A celebration... an illuminating companion to Roth's work. * Economist * The first study of the complete oeuvre... Roth collaborated with [Pierpont], answering questions, contributing asides as she writes. The effect is surreal. Ten pages of Pierpont's sparky prose can go by without interruption. Then she'll say, "Speaking today about this encounter, Roth remarks..." as if the great man has been sitting by her side all the time, peering to see the sentences unfold, his breath in her ear. -- John Walsh * Sunday Times * [Pierpont] binds the books to the man not by mining them for nuggets of autobiographical information but by talking to Roth himself about what he put into them, by which she doesn't mean the facts, but the territory of imagination and self that creates fiction... What Pierpont has achieved is to defeat speculation. Whatever we think we know, turns out to be wrong. -- Linda Grant * Independent * Pierpont knows her (somewhat inaccessible) subject and has punctuated her narrative with conversational snippets. A must for fans. -- Rachel Cooke * Observer *
Claudia Roth Pierpont is a staff writer for the New Yorker, where she has written about the arts for more than twenty years. The subjects of her articles have ranged from James Baldwin to Katharine Hepburn, from Machiavelli to Mae West. A collection of Pierpont's essays on women writers, Passionate Minds: Women Rewriting the World, was published in 2000 and was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award. Pierpont has been the recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a fellowship at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers of the New York Public Library. She has a PhD in Italian Renaissance art history from New York University. She lives in New York City.