April 26, 2012
In a style richly accessible to the general reader, this book presents Roth’s secular Jewishness, with its own mysteries and humor, as most representative of the American Jewish experience. Thirty years into his career as a writer, Philip Roth remains known to most readers as a self-hating Jew or a flawed would-be comic. Philip Roth and the Jews shows Roth the ironist, the master of absurdity, for whom twentieth-century America and modern Jewish history resonate with each other’s signal accomplishments and anxieties. Roth’s “egoism” is a persona, an abashed moralist discomfited by the world. Cooper shows that in the “Jewish” works Roth has taken the pulse of America and read the pressures of the world. Modernism, the universal tug for individual sovereignty and against tribal definition, is an issue everywhere. Roth’s own odyssey of betrayal, loss, and return-the pattern of the Jewish writer in the last 200 years-is so shaped by his origins that Roth has carried his home and neighborhood into the corners of the earth and thus never left them.