“What that obsessive man still wanted, when he was not blissfully lurking in bed, A. Forgiveness,“Bailey” writes in Philip Roth. “From whom? In short order: villainous ex-wives, needy children of the said ex-wives, feminists accusing them of misbehavior, Jewish critics accusing them of anti-Semitism, The New York Times, John Updike, Irving Howe , Accused of his bad back being insufficiently devoted editors (“Your engine no longer beats the sound of my name,” he grabbed one), presumably the Nobel Committee. From the first page, the message is clear: Roth is Outstanding.
Bailey is the acclaimed biographer of writers including John Cheever and Richard Yates – “the most safely dead”, as Hermione Lee describes her own subjects. He once expressed skepticism of writing about the living: “I would have a hard page writing a page without explaining what the results might be,” adding that he admits that “he is certain Form will dilute the material to some extent. “
At its first meeting in 2012, a job interview in effect, Roth was every part “tyrannical maestro,” Bailey recalls in his confession, examining the credibility of “Gentiles from Oklahoma” – what the Jews knew about the American literary tradition The Bailey writes, “Rowley took out a photo album dedicated to old girlfriends, writing -” an art form that only occasionally ties into his writing. “He cast a vote on these women and vice versa; Many of them fell into their beds after I died, as I did. “
There is another version of this story. In a panel on Roth, a year after his death in 2018, Bailey recalled the interview but added a description that he is not included in the book. Again, Roth quizzed Gentile from Oklahoma, again producing a girlfriend’s album. But then the conversation turned to Hollywood adaptations of Roth’s work. Bailey mentions Ali McGraw, who starred in “Goodbye, Columbus”. (They thought he was “just wow.”)
“I could get him out,” Roth said.
“My God, man, why didn’t you?” Bailey asked.
“Okay,” Roth replied. “you’re hired.'”