Philip Roth
New Perspectives on an American Author
by Derek Parker Royal, ed.
April 2005, 316pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-275-98363-5
$46, £35, 40€, A63
eBook Available: 978-0-313-01803-9
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Offering fresh insight into Roth’s works, this volume covers the entire oeuvre to date and addresses common themes and issues.

Of all contemporary American writers, Philip Roth is perhaps the most ambitious, yet he is one of the most underrepresented in terms of critical attention given his place in American letters. Unlike many aging novelists, whose production and creative mastery wane over time, Roth has demonstrated a unique ability not only to sustain his literary output, but also to surpass the scope and talent inherent in his previous writings. He has been awarded many literary honors, and in the 1990s alone he won every major American book award. This long-overdue collection of essays covers Roth’s entire output and links themes across works, highlighting those thoughts and ideas that recur frequently.

Unlike older introductions to Roth’s writings, this volume will provide up-to-date coverage of all his works. Each chapter introduces the work or works under discussion, provides a brief summary of the story, and moves on to a lively analysis of its various literary elements and its significance in Roth’s overall body of work. While each chapter focuses on the central issues in the specific work, several larger themes that run throughout many of his writings will be addressed, including the rise of suburbanization in post-war America, the problems and prominence of the family, American (Jewish) ethnicity, comedy and satire, the costs of literary celebrity, the promises and failures of the American dream, and others. Newcomers to and fans alike will find everything they need in this volume to build a better appreciation of Roth’s work.

Reviews

"Offering 17 original essays, this excellent collection makes a fine addition to the substantial body of critical and scholarly work on this important author....Each of the well-written essays deals with one or several of Roth's works, so the book as a whole presents the reader with a chronologically organized survey of virtually all Roth's books, including his biographical and critical writings. The scope and depth of the book are illuminated in the themes that recur throughout, among them, in Ross's words, the joining of the public and the private in Roth's fiction and autobiography, and, in Parker Royal's words, the ways in which American identity and Jewish ethnicity are negotiated. Enhanced by an extensive bibliography, this book provides a sophisticated but accessible introduction to the Roth canon. Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty."—Choice, November 1, 2005

"Philip Roth: New Perspectives on an American Author is a timely and welcome addition to Roth scholarship....This new book is a collection of some seventeen essays from UK and US scholars. Generally tracing the outline of Roth's work from Goodbye, Columbus through to The Plot Against America each essay offers a plot synopsis before launching into a new argument on the text. This makes for innovative stuff....As a whole the volume presents invigorating critique, breathing new life into the earlier texts and offering considered perspectives on the later works....The scope of the volume, combined with the plot summaries and the kind of scholarship engaged throughout, make this book that rare thing: something of value for scholars in the field and the newcomer alike."—Journal of American Studies, January 1, 2006

"[N]o one has been so instrumental lately in preparing a fertile ground for the study of Roth's work than Derek Parker Royal, founder and president of the Philip Roth Society and its allied journal. In Philip Roth: New Perspectives on an American Author, Royal draws together a fine collection of sophisticated but accessible essays from both established and young scholars. The anthology demonstrates the many ways in which the study of Roth's work has matured and deepened....As the recent rich production of scholarship on Roth attests, this is an important moment for a retrospective view of his work, and Derek Parker Royal's volume is a welcome addition to that process of reevaluation. The essays are probing and energetic, offering a solid introduction to the fiction for readers unfamiliar with Roth's work as well as superb new readings for scholars in the field."—Studies in American Jewish Literature, January 1, 2006

"Scholars of English literature take another look at the American novelist and his entire body of work now that many critics and readers - if not the general public - say that he has developed an ever more compelling narrative voice since his controversial best-seller days through the 1970s and 1990s."—Reference & Research Book News, August 1, 2005

"The difficulty of writing about a career as long as Roth's is that it has gone on for so long now that it seems more like five careers, or ten. It is this difficulty that makes a well-edited collection of essays by different critics on different books in Roth's oeuvre so suitable to the task. Derek Peter Royal's books lets in as many perspectives as there are books, providing a coherent, chronological introduction to all of Roth's writing while allowing the diversity and incoherence of his many concerns to emerge....[b]y demonstrating the seemingly endless reading of Roth's long career, they provide an invitation to take another look at an author we thought we knew so well."—Times Literary Supplement (London), April 7, 2006

"The very pluralism of this collection, the twentieth book-length study of Roth in English thus far published (and a few more are imminent), makes it essential for anyone studying or savoring the elusive master who once told an interviewer, Sheer Playfulness and Deadly Seriousness are my closest friends. With friends like that, Roth remains and indispensible acquaintance."—Philip Roth Studies, September 1, 2005

"Royal's new anthology of critical essays on Philip Roth is a timely addition to the growing library of books to weigh in on Roth as our most important contemporary novelist....The editor's charge to his writers was to start afresh, make it new, and so they have. The contributors have learned from Roth himself how to be at once weighty and brisk, informed and bold. These essays are admirably readable, and are framed expertly by Professor Royal's introduction and concluding bibliography. To the student of Philip Roth's writing, beginning or well advanced, I can say confidently, Start here."—Mark Shechner, author of Up Society's Ass Copper: Rereading Philip Roth

"It is a book of revelations, in which original, sympathetic and well-informed readings of Roth's major works...provide fascinating insights into the achievement of one of America's most important writers that will be of interest to both students and scholars."—Bernard F. Rodgers Jr., Emily H. Fisher Professor of Literature, Simon's Rock College of Bard

"The most comprehensive and up-to-date collection of essays available.... He has included work by some of the best Roth critics and scholars.... The essays are mostly each on a single work but written intertextually so that readers get a sense of Roth's development and growth as a novelist. This will be extremely useful for students at every level as well as for the general reader who wants to understand and appreciate Roth's fiction."—Jay L. Halio, Professor of English Emeritus, University of Delaware, author of Philip Roth Revisited

"The first collection of essays that both illuminates and expands our critical understanding of all Roth's major and minor writings. It will be of equal interest to both the Roth specialist and the general reader."—Ben Siegel, Professor of English, California State Polytechnic University, Ponoma, author of Turning Up the Flame: Philip Roth's Later Novels

"Royal's collection is a broad ranging and timely critical reassessment of the Roth oeuvre by major scholars who examine with freshness and brilliance Roth's postmodern treatment of such contemporary issues as gender, ethnicity, Jewishness, metafiction, the problematics of the American dream, American history, the status of truth, and Roth's many-layered narrative masks. Lively, erudite, substantive, sophisticated and elegantly edited. This is a major contribution to the study of one of postmodern America's major living writers."—Gloria L. Cronin, Editor: Saul Bellow Journal, Executive Coordinator, American Literature Association, Co-Director, Jewish American and Holocaust Literature Association
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