Treating Philip Roth as a war writer—as well as a sportswriter, crime reporter, political commentator, and Newark chronicler—Roth’s Wars: A Career in Conflict offers a thoroughly researched account of the novelist’s preoccupation with wars around the world and wars at home. This wide-ranging social and cultural history of Roth’s career examines intersections between Roth’s preoccupations as a writer and the work of contemporaries, such as J.D. Salinger, Joan Didion, George Plimpton, Hannah Arendt, E.L. Doctorow, Flannery O’Connor, Michael Herr, and Don DeLillo. The legends and icons who figure in this account of Roth’s career include Dwight Eisenhower, Meyer Lansky, Ernie Pyle, Bob Dylan, Johnny Appleseed, Anne Frank, JFK, Mickey Mantle, the Marx Brothers, Thomas Paine, Sandy Koufax, and Franz Kafka.
James D. Bloom is professor of English at Muhlenberg College.
Preface “The Last of The Ex-GIs”
Chapter One: Study War: An Overview
Chapter Two: Rescue, Refuge, Escape
Chapter Three: Don’t Count the Dead
Chapter Four: Endless War (Pandora Unbound or The Promethean Daughter)
Chapter Five: Sports Wars
Chapter Six: Newark Wars—Race War/Gang War
Chapter Seven: Jewish Wars
About the Author
In this energetically written text, James Bloom takes aim at Roth’s soldering life and hits the target on every page exposing the conflict between Roth’s attraction to military service and grasp of the realities of war. Revealing Roth’s attitude toward the military and the nature of sports wars, Newark wars and Jewish wars, Bloom traces the heroic and not so heroic actions of martial Roth and his characters. Without a doubt, Bloom hits the bullseye.
The Great Philip Roth has passed and it is left to professional Roth scholars to make sense of the massive, complex oeuvre he left behind. Rising to the task is professor Jim Bloom in Roth's Wars, a detailed and thoughtful study which makes a very compelling case for the centrality of violence, combat, strife and military ideation to Philip Roth nearly six decades of fictional creation. In so doing, Bloom proposes an original conceptual throughline that lets us rethink the priorities and thematic obsessions of the author. The case he makes is clear, erudite and compelling.
Bloom takes readers beyond the strict meaning of war as a national conflict or military service to consider its conceptual relevance to Roth's experiences in sports, crime, politics, and other spheres where violence or strife finds a place in his writing. In his intelligent examination of conflict, Bloom asserts a whole new meaning of war, asking readers to venture beyond the traditional battlefields of war literature and reflect on how Roth and his contemporaries—J. D. Salinger, Joan Didion, George Plimpton, and Don DeLillo—dealt with this more expansive view of war. Recommended for upper-division undergraduates through faculty and general readers.