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The (Near Complete) Roth Reader

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FOR FANS ONLY


Letting Go
Random House, 1962
This huge first novel contains a lot of what we now recognize as “Philip Roth”: detached Jewish protagonist, marriages ranging from uneasy to horrid, illicit sex (at least by the standards of the day—the book’s set in the fifties). But the voice is curiously neutral, lacking much of the whipped-up frenzy of later Roth.

Our Gang
Random House, 1971
Pre-Watergate satire featuring Trick E. Dixon, who schemes against Boy Scouts, nukes Copenhagen, and stands up for the voting rights of the unborn. Funny but musty.

The Breast
Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1972
David Kepesh makes his debut as a lit scholar (specializing in Kafka) turned overnight into a 155-pound female breast. Naturally, he has a bit to say about that.

The Dying Animal
Houghton Mifflin, 2001
Eros and Thanatos are in constant battle in this slenderest of Roth novels—the last Kepesh book—and everyone knows who wins in the end.

AVOID


When She Was Good
Random House, 1967
No Jews, no Newark, no jokes! You might mistake this for second-tier Updike—especially given that the sex is furtive, guilty, and banal.

The Great American Novel
Henry Holt, 1991
This balls-out (as it were) baseball farce is an acquired taste—and even the book’s fans admit it’s too long by a third.


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