Rediscover: Philip Roth

Except for the Nobel Prize for Literature, which many thought he should win, Philip Roth, the titan of 20th-century American letters, who died on Tuesday at age 85, won nearly every major literary accolade: two National Book Awards (the first one in 1960 for his debut story collection, Goodbye, Columbus), two National Book Critics Circle awards, a record three PEN/Faulkner Awards, a Pulitzer Prize and the Man Booker International Prize. He also received the National Humanities Medal from President Obama in 2011.

Roth was the author of more than 30 books, including Portnoy's Complaint, My Life as a Man, The Ghost Writer, Zuckerman Unbound, The Anatomy Lesson, The Counterlife, Operation Shylock, Sabbath's Theater, The Plot Against America, American Pastoral, The Human Stain and I Married a Communist. His work blurred the lines between autobiography and fiction, with a focus on American, Jewish and male identity, and repeat visits to his childhood home of Newark, N.J.

In 2005, Roth became only the third living writer (after Saul Bellow and Eudora Welty) to have his work enshrined in the Library of America. "His books are not only central to the cultural history of our time; taken together, they comprise one of the great fictional journeys in American literature," Library of America president and publisher Max Rudin said this week. "It was a very great privilege, personally and professionally, to work with him on the LOA edition. And I've never laughed so much." The 10th and final volume in Roth's Library of America series, a collection of nonfiction titled Why Write? Collected Nonfiction 1960-2013, was published last September ($35, 9781598535402). --Tobias Mutter

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