Sunday, May 30, 2021

the last book I ever read (Philip Roth: The Biography, excerpt eleven)

from Philip Roth: The Biography by Blake Bailey:

With Deception, Simon & Schuster pulled out the stops to recoup its investment in Roth. The gleefully hyperbolic publicity campaign included a description of the novel as his “most original, poignant and provocative,” and naturally predicted it would have the same generation-defining impact as Portnoy’s Complaint. The cover of the February 1990 Esquire, where an excerpt appeared, featured a tousle-haired doxy wearing a negligee with one should strap loose. “A famous writer has a mistress,” the caption read. “They meet in a room with no bed. They have sex. They tell lies. They play games with each other. Then he exposes it all in a book.” Will Blythe’s introduction commented on the “fine carpets, paintings,” and “monastic silence” of Roth’s Manhattan apartment, and quoted Roth on the subjects of what feminists would think of his novel (“They’ll probably hate it, but fuck ‘em”) and how the magazine might go about pitching his excerpt: “’Philip Roth calls his forthcoming novel Deception. But who can say how far the deception really goes? Is it actually a novel? Or is that the greatest deception?’” Such impolitic remarks had been made with the understanding that Roth would have a chance to vet the introduction in advance, and, when Esquire neglected to honor this agreement, Wylie grimly wrote the magazine’s editor, Lee Eisenberg, that Roth was “outraged” and would “not allow his work to appear in Esquire again.”

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