cover image Here We Are: My Friendship with Philip Roth

Here We Are: My Friendship with Philip Roth

Benjamin Taylor. Penguin, $26 (192p) ISBN 978-0-525-50524-2

Taylor (The Hue and Cry at Our House) begins his loving “partial portrait” of his best friend and “chosen parent,” author Philip Roth, in 2018, when the ailing literary lion, nearing death, comforts Taylor: “I have been to see the great enemy, and walked around him, and talked to him, and he is not to be feared. I promise.” He meditates on Roth’s virtues and vulnerabilities: he had “insatiable emotional appetites... he seethed with loathing or desire,” Taylor writes. He was passionate about his beloved hometown of Newark, N.J., which he “endlessly rediscovered through [his] alchemical imagination.” One of Roth’s more curious vulnerabilities, Taylor notes, was that, though hailed as a great sexual libertine of 20th-century literature, Roth was plagued by fears of disapproval “as acutely as any itch in the loins.” His irritants included bitterness about not winning a Nobel Prize, and disliking George Plimpton’s “supreme self-assurance.” Taylor weaves many of the pair’s lighter moments throughout, including their ritual Sunday night Chinese dinners and their spirited movie nights (Taylor preferred Hollywood classics; Roth was a Kirosawa and Fellini fan). “I’m not who I’d have been without him,” he concludes. This tender-hearted and eloquent paean to long-term friendships will hold special appeal among Roth fans. [em](May) [/em]