A Reader's Guide to Unfamiliar Literature
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A Good Place To Start

American Pastoral 2
Portnoy's Complaint 2
The Ghost Writer 2

A Bad Place To Start

I Married a Communist 1
Our Gang (Starring Tricky and His Friends) 1


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Philip Roth

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Please consider recommending where to begin reading this author, or where not to. A few words about your experiences reading this author and why you make the recommendations you do will be helpful to other users. If you are the author or have studied this author extensively, please say so.

allabla January 29th, 2006 07:07 PM PST

One of the great writers of our time. His works are dense and always have many layers of meaning. American Pastoral is one of a trilogy (The Human Stain and I Married A Communist), and it plumbs the depths of the Sixties and the political and social scene through a character who represents the American ideal. A superb novel both in the way it is written and the subject. Highly recommended

richard October 25th, 2006 08:00 AM PST

There are very few duds in Roth's large output (although the Nixon satire Our Gang hasn't aged well). Portnoy's Complaint is the obvious starting point, but I think The Ghost Writer is a better guide to what Roth's about - it's a short, elegant musing on literary life with a bizarre Anne Frank subplot. Of the later novels (which have a broader historical range), I Married A Communist is the best.


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Philip Milton Roth was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1933, the son of American-born parents and the grandson of European Jews who were part of the nineteenth-century wave of immigration to the United States. He grew up in the city's lower-middle-class section of Weequahic and was educated in Newark public schools. He later attended Bucknell University, where he received his B.A., and the University of Chicago, where he completed his M. A. and taught English. Afterwards, at both Iowa and Princeton, he taught creative writing, and for many years he taught comparative literature at the University of Pennsylvania. He retired from teaching in 1992.

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