Published: September 2017
Tracing the full span of Philip Roth's career-from the early controversies surrounding the stories in Goodbye, Columbus to his recent assessments of his work and corrections of the record-this retrospective summation of his essays and interviews shows at every turn the vigor, acuity, and persuasive power of our most celebrated living novelist. Divided into three sections, with many of the essays newly revised, Why Write? begins with Roth's selection of the indispensable core of Reading Myself and Others, including the essays and interviews given in the wake of the explosive release of Portnoy's Complaint. The volume's second section presents in its entirety the 2001 book Shop Talk, a series of conversations with writers such as Aharon Appelfeld, Primo Levi, and Edna O'Brien. The concluding section, oExplanations,o comprises fourteen later pieces collected here for the first time, six never before publshed. Among the essays gathered are oMy Uchronia,o an account of the genesis of The Plot Against America, a novel grounded in the insight that oall the assurances are provisional, even here in a two-hundred-year-old democracyo; oErrata,o the unabridged version of the oOpen Letter to Wikipediao published on The New Yorker's website in 2012 to counter the online encyclopedia's egregious errors about his life and work; oForty-Five Years On,o Roth's absolute last word on Portnoy; and oThe Ruthless Intimacy of Fiction,o a speech delivered on the occasion of his eightieth birthday that celebrates the orefractory way of livingo of Sabbath Theater's Mickey Sabbath. Also included are two lengthy interviews given after Roth's retirement, which take stock of a lifetime of work.