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.