Philip Roth's literary career is extra-ordinary in a number of ways other than its continued production of surprising, vital, imaginative works. It began when his first book, Goodbye, Columbus, a novella and five stories, won the National Book Award for 1959; it reached a peak of notoriety ten years later when Portnoy's Complaint became not only a best-seller but also a portent of the decay of American youth. (Students now came to college, declared Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, with pot and Portnoy secreted in their suitcases.) The career's most recent stage, beginning in 1993, shows a writer in his seventh decade who brought out no less than six novels, all of them distinctive, three of them possible examples of masterwork. At his seventieth birthday in March 2003, he stood as a writer who has exhibited astonishing staying power, but also one who has deepened, extended, and invariably transformed himself.Less
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