The Sunday Read: ‘The Ghost Writer’

Philip Roth was his own favorite subject. What’s left for a biographer?,


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The Sunday Read: ‘The Ghost Writer’

Philip Roth was his own favorite subject. What’s left for a biographer?

Produced by Anna Martin and Aaron Esposito; music by Aaron Esposito; edited by John Woo; written and introduced by Mark Oppenheimer; and narrated by Edoardo Ballerini.

April 11, 2021, 9:00 a.m. ET

The author Philip Roth, who died in 2018, was not sure whether he wanted to be the subject of a biography. In the end, he decided that he wanted to be known and understood.

His search for a biographer was long and fraught — Mr. Roth parted ways with two, courted one and sued another — before he settled on Blake Bailey, one of the great chroniclers of America’s literary lives.

“If you tell the whole truth about a person, their humanity comes through,” Mr. Bailey said. “Philip believed that would be true for him.”

Today on The Sunday Read, the journey of rendering a writer whose life was equal parts discipline and exuberance.

This story was written by Mark Oppenheimer and recorded by Audm. To hear more audio stories from publishers like The New York Times, download Audm for iPhone or Android.

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Additional production for The Sunday Read was contributed by Emma Kehlbeck, Parin Behrooz, Carson Leigh Brown, Anna Diamond, Elena Hecht, Desiree Ibekwe, Tanya Perez, Corey Schreppel, Margaret Willison and Kate Winslett. Special thanks to Mike Benoist, Sam Dolnick, Laura Kim, Julia Simon, Lisa Tobin, Blake Wilson and Ryan Wegner.

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