Blake Bailey on Philip Roth, with Mary Karr

APR 15, 2021 | 6:00 PM TO 7:10 PM



Online Event


April 15, 2021: 6:00 PM-7:10 PM




Leon Levy Center for Biography



Appointed by Philip Roth and granted independence and complete access, Blake Bailey spent years poring over Roth’s personal archive, interviewing his friends, lovers, and colleagues, and engaging Roth himself in breathtakingly candid conversations. The result is an indelible portrait of an American master and of the postwar literary scene.

Bailey shows how Roth emerged from a lower-middle-class Jewish milieu to achieve the heights of literary fame, how his career was nearly derailed by his catastrophic first marriage, and how he championed the work of dissident novelists behind the Iron Curtain.

Bailey examines Roth’s rivalrous friendships with Saul Bellow, John Updike, and William Styron, and reveals the truths of his florid love life, culminating in his almost-twenty-year relationship with actress Claire Bloom, who pilloried Roth in her 1996 memoir, Leaving a Doll’s House.

Tracing Roth’s path from realism to farce to metafiction to the tragic masterpieces of the American Trilogy, Bailey explores Roth’s engagement with nearly every aspect of postwar American culture.

Blake Bailey is the author of biographies of John Cheever, Richard Yates, and Charles Jackson. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Francis Parkman Prize from the Society of American Historians, and a finalist for the Pulitzer and James Tait Black Prizes. His previous book, The Splendid Things We Planned, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Autobiography. He lives in Virginia with his wife and daughter.

Mary Karr’s four books of poetry include: Sinners WelcomeViper RumThe Devil’s Tour, and Abacus. Her poetry secured her fellowships from the Guggenheim, the NEA, and the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College. She’s published three bestselling memoirs credited with kick-starting a renaissance in the form—LitCherry, and The Liars’ Club—as well as The Art of Memoir, which was also a New York Times bestseller. She was twice-nominated for the NBCC Awards. Her Syracuse graduation speech, published as Now Go Out There, lit up the Twittersphere. Her Americana song collaboration with country Rodney Crowell, Kin, reached number one on the charts and was a Grammy finalist. Her memoir on aging, Just You Wait, is in progress. Karr is the Peck Professor of Literature at Syracuse University and commutes there from New York City, where she is grandmother to a pit bull. Please follow her on Twitter @marykarrlit and visit [].