The Possessed | Harper's Magazine

Sign in to access Harper’s Magazine

Need to create a login? Want to change your email address or password? Forgot your password?

  1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
  2. Select Email/Password Information.
  3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.

Locked out of your account? Get help here.

Subscribers can find additional help here.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!

Get Access to Print and Digital for $23.99.
Subscribe for Full Access
Get Access to Print and Digital for $23.99.
[Podcast]

The Possessed

Adjust
No Ouija board required: on Philip Roth’s writing, legacy, and a new biography

This month will see the release of Blake Bailey’s Philip Roth: The Biography—the authorized biography of the famous novelist, who died in 2018. Roth himself selected Bailey to write his life story. In addition to many long conversations, Roth granted Bailey complete access to his personal archives and helped set up interviews with many of his friends, lovers, and colleagues.

In the March issue of Harper’s Magazine, the novelist and Harper’s contributing editor Joshua Cohen imagines how Bailey’s book might be received by Roth himself. From the comfort of his writing studio beyond the grave, Cohen’s Roth ruminates on the strange, perhaps self-destructive decision to commission his own biography, and proceeds to lament the result, which, he argues, downplays the literary production that made up most of his days (“MY BIOGRAPHER HAS NO INTEREST IN MY WRITING!!!!”) in favor of “interminable chapters and decades of reputation management, alternating with, if not relieved by, sexual transgressions.” Cohen’s ventriloquism of Roth is a gambit one has to think the author would have admired. As Cohen points out in this interview, Roth, too, had a penchant for throwing his voice.

In this episode of the podcast, Violet Lucca talks with Cohen about Philip Roth’s long career and his unclear legacy. Among other things, they discuss Roth’s late decree that “the book can’t compete with the screen”; his often unacknowledged influence on today’s American immigrant writers, as well as writers of autofiction; and an afterlife—or do we find ourselves there now?—in which everything will be as it is, just a little different.

Never miss an episode! Subscribe to our podcast:

Sign up and get the Weekly Review delivered to your inbox every Tuesday.

More from

More