Philip Roth: The Biography (Hardcover)

Philip Roth: The Biography Cover Image

Philip Roth: The Biography (Hardcover)

Email or call for price.

Out of Print

New York Times Bestseller



The renowned biographer’s definitive portrait of a literary titan.


Appointed by Philip Roth and granted independence and complete access, Blake Bailey spent years poring over Roth’s personal archive, interviewing his friends, lovers, and colleagues, and engaging Roth himself in breathtakingly candid conversations. The result is an indelible portrait of an American master and of the postwar literary scene.


Bailey shows how Roth emerged from a lower-middle-class Jewish milieu to achieve the heights of literary fame, how his career was nearly derailed by his catastrophic first marriage, and how he championed the work of dissident novelists behind the Iron Curtain.


Bailey examines Roth’s rivalrous friendships with Saul Bellow, John Updike, and William Styron, and reveals the truths of his florid love life, 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 postwar American culture.



Blake Bailey is the author of biographies of John Cheever, Richard Yates, and Charles Jackson. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Francis Parkman Prize from the Society of American Historians, and a finalist for the Pulitzer and James Tait Black Prizes. His previous book, The Splendid Things We Planned, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Autobiography. He lives in Virginia with his wife and daughter.
Product Details ISBN: 9780393240726
ISBN-10: 039324072X
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: April 6th, 2021
Pages: 912
Language: English
Blake Bailey’s comprehensive life of Philip Roth—to tell it outright—is a narrative masterwork … As in a novel, what is seen at first to be casual chance is revealed at last to be a steady and powerfully demanding drive. … under Bailey’s strong light what remains on the page is one writer’s life as it was lived, and—almost—as it was felt.
— Cynthia Ozick - New York Times Book Review (cover)

Bailey is industrious, rigorous, and uncowed. … Although Roth would not have enjoyed some of the tumult that will now attend its publication, he might have admired his biographer’s ... refusal to fall under his subject’s sway. The man who emerges is a literary genius, constantly getting it wrong, loving others, then hurting them, wrestling with himself and with language, devoted to an almost unfathomable degree to the art of fiction.
— David Remnick - The New Yorker

[Roth] got to be remembered [in Bailey's biography] as a man: hilarious, mercurial, genuinely kind but fickle and meanspirited too. A man, rather than an inert legacy.
— Mark Oppenheimer - New York Times Magazine

Superlative … Bailey's account is definitive and genuinely gripping to boot. … He leads us lucidly through a dense palimpsest of overlapping drafts, fictional identities, literary feuds and women.
— Claire Lowdon - Times of London

Meticulous, masterfully organized and heroically fair-minded … [T]here are sparkling scenes portraying Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball, lunching with the Kennedys on Martha’s Vineyard, even a flirtation with Jackie Onassis, the only woman Roth was too awed by to pursue.
— Sam Sacks - Wall Street Journal

Beautifully written … compulsively readable … It is hard to imagine a book that will come up with a more definitive series of answers than this one.
— Tim Adams - Observer

A wonderful book that seems certain to become the definitive biography of Roth’s fascinating, sometimes troubling, life—Roth was a brilliant writer, and Bailey does him justice in this beautifully written and highly readable volume.
— Michael Schaub - Boston Globe

Monumental and engrossing … Bailey brings new information and a fresh perspective … Is Bailey’s compassionate and comprehensive book the biography? No other biographer will have known Roth so well, had such unlimited access to his archives, had a chance to ask him rude questions, even to watch him as he lay dying.

— Elaine Showalter - Times Literary Supplement (cover)

Bailey is a very good writer and a very good literary biographer. A double- or triple-natured subject is not beyond him. … What a story. … Bailey certainly lets the repellent in, and along with it comes the man in his wholeness.
— James Parker - The Atlantic

Unassailable as to fact … clear-eyed … quickly moving … Philip Roth seems as brightly peopled as a Victorian novel. … What [Bailey] does superbly … is chart Roth's sexual and emotional life, and map its effects on his work.

— Michael Gorra - New York Review of Books

Roth would approve of this biography, too, not because it's partial but because Bailey's industriousness is on a par with his own … it's a miracle that he has published so lucid a book just three years after Roth's death—and one so packed with good anecdotes and jokes.
— Blake Morrison - The Guardian

[A] totemic and compulsively readable biography.
— Christian Lorentzen - Bookforum

'Magisterial' and 'definitive' … don't do justice to Blake Bailey's years-in-the-making opus. … Bailey meticulously conjures the career of one of America's literary titans, the devils and angels that shaped his work.
— O, The Oprah Magazine

Philip Roth, for all his flaws, for all that I know his legacy will continue to be judged in judgmental times and found wanting, deserves this riveting, serious and deeply intelligent biography.
— David Baddiel - The Spectator

Fascinating … Bailey's utterly engrossing biography shows Roth led a life just as strange and intense as his fictionalized alter egos.
— Tomiwa Owolade - Evening Standard

Blake Bailey’s book is definitive. It’s also often funny, sometimes appalling, and always fascinating—like its subject.
— Jacqueline Cutler - New York Daily News

A stunning feat, this is as dynamic and gripping as any of Roth’s own fictions.
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Excellent…evenhanded…Roth gave Bailey access to his archive and sat down for interviews, and it shows, especially in the many intimate details about Roth's personal life…An outstanding biography.
— Kirkus (starred review)

Fully authorized, comprehensive, and engrossing … a consummate and unforgettable biography of a controversial, virtuoso, and indelible American writer.
— Booklist (starred review)

Philip Roth, to go with his legendary talent, was a lucky man. That streak continues with Blake Bailey’s charming, wise, and witty biography, which achieves a balance and comprehensiveness that shouldn’t have been possible so soon after Roth’s death.
— Jonathan Lethem

THE SANTA FE LITERARY FESTIVAL

Celebrating the power of story, the inaugural Santa Fe Literary Festival will be an unforgettable weekend dedicated to a shared love and language of ideas. Collected Works Bookstore is thrilled to be the official bookstore of the Festival. 

Bestselling, prizewinning authors and literary legends like Margaret Atwood, Joy Harjo, Colson Whitehead, Sandra Cisneros, John Grisham, amongst others, will headline the festival, discussing their work with readings and book signings that set the stage for further inspired conversations.

NOTE: If you purchase a festival event ticket that is INCLUSIVE of the author's book, you will receive that book upon check-in for your event at the festival.

To order books by festival authors directly from CW, see below. Collected Works will be carrying a wide selection of books by all participating authors available for online pre-order and at the on-site festival bookstore May 20-23.

Purchase your tickets from the SF Literary Festival website here.

Purchase your books by festival authors directly from CW below:

Margaret Atwood     Freddie Bitsoie     Sandra Cisneros

Lynn Cline     William deBuys     Ashley Ford

John Grisham     Roshi Joan Halifax     Joy Harjo

Anne Hillerman     Cheryl Alters Jamison     Craig Johnson

Asma Khan     Phil Klay      Jon Krakauer

Valeria Luiselli     Deborah Madison      Emily St. John Mandel

George R. R. Martin      James McGrath Morris     Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich of Honey & Co. 

Carmella Padilla     Douglas Preston     Kirstin Valdez Quade

Bob Shacochis     Henry Shukman     Hampton Sides

Bryant Terry     Darryl Lorenzo Wellington     Colson Whitehead

Don Winslow     Lawrence Wright