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Blake Bailey

Forfatter af Cheever: A Life

7+ Works 938 Members 18 Reviews

Om forfatteren

Blake Bailey has written for a number of magazines, newspapers, and literary journals. He lives in northern Florida with his wife, Mary Brinkmeyer

Includes the name: Blake Bailey

Image credit: Larry D. Moore

Værker af Blake Bailey

Cheever: A Life (2009) 348 eksemplarer
Philip Roth: The Biography (2021) 210 eksemplarer
A Tragic Honesty (2003) 195 eksemplarer
Sixties (1992) 8 eksemplarer

Associated Works

John Cheever: Collected Stories and Other Writings (2009) — Redaktør — 268 eksemplarer
The Sunnier Side and Other Stories (1950) — Redaktør, nogle udgaver31 eksemplarer
The Best of Slate: A 10th Anniversary Anthology (2006) — Bidragyder — 28 eksemplarer
Love Can Be: A Literary Collection about Our Animals (2018) — Bidragyder — 7 eksemplarer

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Philip Roth biography: train wreck i Book talk (juni 2021)


Really great. I acknowledge and understand the reasons that it is "problematic," and agree. But the problem is, who is going to write a better one?

I hope his estate doesn't accede to his stated desire to have personal papers burned after the publication of this official bio, and instead gives access.
k6gst | 5 andre anmeldelser | Jan 27, 2024 |
We learn in Blake Bailey´s biography that Philip Roth carried on an affair with his friend´s wife for 20 years. In my books that’s long time.

Later in life, Roth had sex with a friend’s daughter, that he had another friend pimp beautiful students into Roth’s literature classes, that he had sex with his students, that he made a pass at his step-daughters friend, poisoning his marriage to Claire Bloom, that he had sex with his personal employees, and that he hung around his publishers´offices to scout out new conquests.

He also had an affair with at least one woman who was likely bi-polar. Both his wives likely suffered from mentally illness.

Roth documented many of his affairs in his fiction, so his wives and girlfriends didn’t have to wait long to find out with whom he was being unfaithful.

And several of the women who appear in this book as Roth’s conquests have been given pseudonyms. We’re not told why, but it wouldn’t a big stretch to guess that Roth had probably raped underage women.

His books and fame brought Roth wealth, wealth he sometimes used to support friends and charities, but wealth he also used to control his lovers. And he unabashedly used his fame to bed more women. The details are pretty gross.

There are also some pretty unflattering portraits of Bobbie and Jackie Kennedy in this volume. Like another serial seducer, John Kennedy, Roth also suffered serious and debilitating back pain.

After reading all this who could imagine that Roth’s books will be studied in literature programs around the world in an era of cancel culture? Roth broke every taboo I can think of, and his books circle around men who likewise break sexual taboos. Roth and at least some of his friends — including the biographer — were creeps.

Bailey himself has been accused of sexual misconduct with his students and his publisher. We may never learn the truth of these accusations, but we can surmise why Bailey took on the job: to learn seduction at the feet of a master.

Roth was pretty candid with his biographer only asking that he make him sound “interesting.” Well, interesting he is in this biography if you are excited by the prurient.

But Roth’s life outside of literature was pretty thin. He didn’t have any jobs outside of academe after his military service. He didn’t have any children of his own. He didn’t build any unique institutions.

In a New York Times podcast we also learn that Roth asked that most of his huge output of letters be burned after the biography was finished. It’s as if he wanted to end the suffering for his victims.

Roth complained that he had terrible luck with his wives and girlfriends, but then again he seemed to be in such a rush to bed so many of them it’s hard to empathize with him. His idol was Saul Bellow, another serial seducer if only judged by his five marriages.

I must add that while I could not put down this very long 800-page biography, I’m not sure I ever want to read another of Roth’s books or watch the movies of the books.

He casts a large shadow over American letters whatever you think about his personal behaviour. A large and troubling shadow.
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MylesKesten | 5 andre anmeldelser | Jan 23, 2024 |
This biography of Philip Roth (19-March-1933 – 22-May-2018) presents a mix of Roth’s personal and literary life—with a more emphasis on the personal. In fact, my main criticism of the book is that it spends too much time belaboring the minute details of Roth’s personal-life miseries and disasters. The prolonged jeremiads and relentless physical and emotional sufferings become painfully tedious too often. Cutting some of that out, the book might’ve been trimmed to about 600 pages, instead of the lengthy 807 pages (not counting notes, appendix, etc.). On the other hand, that might not give the full picture of Roth’s life.

Roth enjoyed a stable, secure, and relatively happy childhood in Newark, New Jersey (Weequahic neighborhood), with family summers at the Jersey shore. He had a healthy academic life, earning a B.A. magna cum laude in English (elected to Phi Beta Kappa) at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, and, with a scholarship, earned an M.A. in English literature at the University of Chicago. But in adulthood, the happiness mostly ended.

Roth made poor choices in both of his marriages (self admission), and lived much of his life in miserable relationships. But not all: part of his life, mercifully, was blessed with some very happy non-marital relationships. The author spends a lot of time detailing arguments and other conversations, many verbatim (based on various journals and interviews), and many, in my opinion, not worth recording.

Roth loved the bustling city life in his New York City apartment, although to ensure quiet when he wanted it, he bought up the apartments all around him, beside, above, and below (p. 704). He also liked the less hectic life in his Connecticut getaway, where he hosted social gatherings from his extensive list of friends. The social gatherings at these and other locations are also described in some detail, which, in this case, really added color to the book. The attendees constitute a Who’s Who of literary lights and other celebrities of the time.

Roth’s early and primary literary influences were Henry James, William Faulkner, Gustav Flaubert, Sherwood Anderson, and Joseph Conrad. Later he revered novelists Saul Bellow and John Updike more than any others. Roth also greatly respected, and was friends with, William Styron. The author offers some interesting tidbits such as, according to Styron, Roth is partly the model for the character Nathan Landau in Styron’s bestseller, Sophie’s Choice (p. 186), which was published in 1979.

The author does a good job reporting on the period during which Roth rose from obscurity to fame. Roth’s first really successful writing was the short story “The Conversion of the Jews” (written in 1958, published in the Paris Review in 1959). Roth’s second successful piece of writing was his novella Goodbye, Columbus (1959), which suddenly catapulted him to literary renown. The novella won the National Book Award—Roth was the youngest author ever to win that award. Saul Bellow declared Roth a virtuoso at age 26 (p. 171).

Roth experienced repeated acclaim with his steady outflow of successful novels and other writings, finally numbering thirty-one books during his lifetime. The author emphasizes Roth’s monk-like daily writing discipline, which sharpened his expertise as well as enabled his prolific output. Roth’s final novel, Nemesis (2010), was lauded as a masterpiece and “a triumphant return to high form” (p. 748). Roth was 77 years old.

The author highlights this striking accomplishment—Roth is unique in that he wrote so many books universally acclaimed as masterpieces, and unique in that two of his greatest novels were 50 years apart: Goodbye, Columbus and Nemesis. No other novelist comes close to this accomplishment, consistency, and longevity.

As for the twenty-nine books in-between, posterity has dubbed most of them major or minor masterpieces, with few exceptions. The author shows us Roth’s varying attitudes towards the critical responses. He tried not to read them, but often couldn’t resist and gave in. Other times he was quick to find the first review being published. A common theme in all the reviews throughout his lifetime was that the reviewers completely failed to understand the book, whether the review was good or bad.

Roth accumulated a lion’s share of literary awards as well. American Pastoral, for example, won the Pulitzer prize in 1998. Other books garnered the PEN/Faulkner Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Roth was often a repeat-winner—many books won the same awards over time, and there was a real diversity of awards. The Human Stain, for example, won the United Kingdom's WH Smith Literary Award for the best book of the year, as well as two awards from France: the Prix Médicis Étranger, and the Commander of the Legion of Honor; in 2011, the Man Booker International Prize for lifetime achievement (approx. $80,000); and in 2012, the Prince of Asturias Award for literature and the Library of Congress Creative Achievement Award for Fiction. He won the Gold Medal In Fiction from The American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2001.

Many major universities bestowed honorary doctorates upon Roth, including Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, Brown, Columbia, and Rutgers, among others. Many of Roth’s novels became Hollywood movies. The author notes that Roth viewed the movie version of Goodbye, Columbus as the best movie ever made of his books (p. 783).

The author brings out Roth’s disillusionment with the steady deterioration of the reading public over the decades, as television made people read less and less. The general population’s march towards illiteracy had an impact on his readership. He noted that, among writers, he and Updike were “the last pre-television generation” (p. 334). As television implacably dumbed down the populous, there followed “the inevitable decline of ‘people who read serious books seriously and consistently’” … “Someday soon, said Roth, reading novels would be as ‘cultic’ an activity as reading ‘Latin poetry.’” (p. 751).

I definitely recommend the book. Despite the book’s flaws, Philip Roth is an important literary figure and this book gives us greater understanding of his work. I recommend the book for anyone interested in literature, writers in general, or anyone interested in twentieth-century history.
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Coutre | 5 andre anmeldelser | Mar 11, 2022 |
Reading - even LIFTING - Blake Bailey's massive 900-page bio, PHILIP ROTH, could be a daunting endeavor, but I managed to get through it in just eleven days, reading every word of its text, epilogue and even the acknowledgements. And I thoroughly enjoyed it, learning so much about this iconic American writer whose work I have been following for close to fifty years. Admittedly, I've only read a dozen or so of his thirty-plus books, picking and choosing as they were published, so it's comforting to know that there is more Roth yet to read. Bailey, Roth's "authorized" biographer, has done an extremely thorough and bang-up job in giving us the complete story of the life and career of a very complicated man, from his ordinary middle-class childhood in Newark to world-famous, millionaire writer. Two awful marriages and multiple affairs, flirtations and relationships with countless women are closely examined, as are his books, as well as friends and acquaintances, many of whom show up in those books as thinly veiled fictitious characters. The supporting cast here reads like a Who's Who of twentieth century writers an publishers. Roth was a staunch admirer of Saul Bellow, Bernard Malamud and John Updike, and they all show up in these pages, which I loved, because I "discovered" all four in my college years.

Roth does not come across as a terribly likeable guy, and yeah, I know all about his treatment and portrayals of women, both in life and in his fiction, but the books! The books are the thing for me, and I especially enjoyed GOODBYE, COLUMBUS; LETTING GO; and PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT (sorry, but it was funny) so many years ago. And, more recently, PATRIMONY; EXIT, GHOST; EVERYMAN;INDIGNATION and NEMESIS - these last few, novellas, written near the end of his life. Oh, and THE HUMAN STAIN. Loved that one too.

Not long ago I read another (much MUCH shorter) book about Roth, Benjamin Taylor's HERE WE ARE, about his unlikely friendship with the much older man towards the end of Roth's life. I loved Ben's book, and recommend it highly, but for the WHOLE Roth story, I don't think anyone will improve on Bailey's scrupulously researched and detailed biography of the man and the writer. My highest recommendation, particularly for fans of Philip Roth. Its all in here. Enjoy.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER
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TimBazzett | 5 andre anmeldelser | Aug 11, 2021 |



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