Novelist Phillip Roth could face getting canceled after his biographers posthumously revealed allegations from his life reflecting misogyny seen in his books.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author, who died in 2018, was known for penning novels throughout the 20th Century filled with ‘enormous rage and disappointment with womenkind,’ as described by literary scholar Mary Allen in 1976.
After his death in 2018, critics surmised that that Roth, whose family was Jewish, would face a reckoning for his portrayal of women and Jews in his work and has previously been called anti-Semitic,
Now, two separate biographers have claimed revelations of his real life ‘sex and depravity’ could spur a reassessment of work and depictions of women, the Times of
Philip Bloom, left, is pictured with ex-wife and actress Claire Bloom- who has previously made her own claims of misogyny in her own memoir
Novelist Philip Roth is pictured during a ceremony at the White House in 2011 where he received the National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama
Ira Nadel, author of Philip Roth: A Counterlife, wrote that he was ‘as sexually obsessed in real life as he was in literature,’ the outlet reported.
Nadel’s biography, set for release on March 29, ‘offers a full account of his development as a writer,’ according to publisher notes on Amazon.
Blake Bailey, for his authorized Philip Roth: The Biography, received independence and complete access from the author himself to spend years pouring over his personal archive and interviewing his friends and lovers.
In his book, Bailey claims Roth visited London brothels and chose female students to attend a seminar based on their attractiveness and flirts with younger women the older he gets, according to the Times of London.
In a visit to London, Roth allegedly went looking for Chinese prostitutes on Curzon Street in Soho.
‘God, I’m fond of adultery,’ said Roth, who had left his wife behind.
Roth was married twice in life. He met Margaret Martinson when he was 23 in 1956 and married her in 1959.
Williams, who was four years older than him, worked as a secretary at the University of Chicago and was the inspiration for some of his female characters.
Williams faked a pregnancy and abortion and the couple separated in 1963, according to
Roth married Bloom in 1990 and the couple divorced in 1994. She later wrote a memoir in which she said he is a man filled with ‘a deep and irrepressible rage’ toward women
Roth, whose family was Jewish, has often criticized for ‘anti-Semitic’ portrayals in his works
She withheld her consent for a divorce and later died in a car crash in Central Park in 1968.
In 1976, Roth began living with English actress Claire Bloom – who starred in A Streetcar Named Desire and nearly 60 other films. Roth married Bloom in 1990 and the couple divorced in 1994.
Bloom later wrote a memoir called Leaving a Doll’s House in which she described him as controlling and claimed scrutinized every decision she made.
She also described him as a self-centered misogynist and wrote that he is a man filled with ‘a deep and irrepressible rage’ toward women.
Bloom claimed also claimed that Roth forced her daughter by a previous marriage, Anna Steiger, to move out of the house because she ‘bored’ him.
Claire Bloom is pictured with Philip Roth at the 38th Bafta Awards in 1986. A biographer argued Bloom was viewed by Roth as ‘the quintessential example of his betrayal by women’
Before his death, Roth wrote a ‘point-by-point’ rebuttal of Bloom’s memoir that legally embargoed for several more years before it can be released, the Times of London reported.
‘He could not stop litigating the past. He wanted to control the story from the grave,’ Nadel told the outlet.
Nadel argued that Bloom was viewed by Roth as ‘the quintessential example of his betrayal by women,’ the Times of London reported.
Sandra Newman, an American novelist, told the outlet that another fight over his work is due and that modern audiences will be less forgiving for the misogyny in his life and work.
‘Looked at from the point of view today, the books are on the wrong side of MeToo. They often have a central male who is a victim of cancel culture,’ she told the outlet.
When asked by the Times of London if he believed Roth would ever get cancelled, Bailey said: ‘You never know these days.’
‘But I think there will always be an audience for Roth’s work in certain quarters, and a non-audience in others,’ he said.
‘I hope my biography helps Roth’s image; though it doesn’t spare his lapses, it does portray him as a rather touching human versus a label of whatever sort.’
After his death, many think pieces were published about Roth and misogyny, including one from
‘Philip Roth is celebrated for bringing my family’s tiny slice of the world into the American pantheon, widening the literary canon to include American Jews. It is hardly news to point out that he accomplished this feat at the expense of Jewish women,’ novelist Dara Horn wrote in the article.
She continued: ‘Roth’s three favorite topics — Jews, women and New Jersey — all remain socially acceptable targets of irrational public mockery, and Roth was a virtuoso at mocking the combination of all three.’
‘Roth, who achieved true greatness in depicting people like himself, never had the imagination to give these women souls,’ she added.
In an article by the
‘When I first encountered Roth’s novels as a young reader, I could not read them without feeling as though they were a negative commentary on my own being.’
She added: ‘The Roth misogyny debate opens up a larger question about genius and morality. What do we make of literary genius – really, any kind of genius – that encompasses attitudes we find objectionable, even immoral?’
Carmen Callil, one of the judges on a panel when Roth was up for a Man Booker award, resigned in protest when she learned he would get the prize, Reuters
Mike Witcombe, a Lecturer at Bath Spa University, noted in an op-ed for
In Roth’s 1990 novel Deception, Roth writes himself in as the protagonist and places the fictional version of himself in a courtroom to defend himself from charges of misogyny.
‘This is an argument that Roth was inviting his readers to take part in. Many have taken up the challenge,’ Witcombe wrote.
‘Few scholars would defend scenes such as the one we find in 1974’s My Life as a Man, in which an instance of domestic abuse is described in a manner so laconic that it comes across as indefensibly vicious to many modern readers – including myself.’