Philip Roth’s Revenge Fantasy

Philip Roth’s Revenge Fantasy
AP Photo, File

There is, among the works of Philip Roth, a book his friends urged him not to publish. The document, titled “Notes for My Biographer,” is a 295-page rebuttal of his ex-wife Claire Bloom’s 1996 memoir, Leaving a Doll’s House. Bloom had described the pain of his sudden withdrawal from their marriage and cruel and erratic behavior, including his outlandish threat to fine her $62 billion during their divorce. As publicity built around her book, Roth found himself “swamped with anger,” flailing to respond. Another writer his age might not care, he acknowledged, but he did. “I can no longer allow her falsifications to impinge on my personal and professional reputation,” he finally wrote. He combed through the memoir, countering it point by point. By the time his friends intervened, he had accepted an advance and paid a law firm $85,000 to vet the manuscript for publication. “You’re gonna look like a bully,” one warned him. “Don’t do it.”

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