Born: 19 March 1933
Birthplace: Newark, New Jersey
Best known as: The author of Portnoy's Complaint
Philip Roth has been a prolific and celebrated writer of novels and short stories since Goodbye, Columbus
, his debut collection of short fiction, earned him a National Book Award in 1959. The controversy over the sexual frankness of his third novel, Portnoy's Complaint
(1969), made Roth a literary celebrity, a role he reluctantly embraced and used as fodder for more novels. Roth's themes involve Jewish-American identity, sex, shame and the role of the individual in contemporary society, and his novels are alternately bleak and hilarious. His alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman, appears in several of his books: 1974's My Life as a Man
, 1979's The Ghost Writer
and 1983's The Anatomy Lesson
. His character David Kepesh is the protagonist of The Breast
(1972), The Professor of Desire
(1977) and The Dying Animal
(2001), and Roth has also used his own name as the main character in mostly autobiographical works, including The Facts
(1990) and Operation Shylock
(1993). Roth's many literary awards include the American Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Pulitzer
Prize for fiction for the 1997 work American Pastoral
His 1970 comic novel Our Gang is a parody of the Nixon administration… The Plot Against America (2004) is an alternate history in which Charles Lindbergh defeats Franklin D. Roosevelt for the U.S. presidency and turns America into an isolationist bastion of anti-semitism.
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