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Benjamin Taylor Collection of Philip Roth Materials

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Held at: Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division [Contact Us]

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Taylor

Benjamin Taylor (1952- ) is an American author. He is the author of the novels Tales Out of School (1995) and The Book of Getting Even (2008), as well as a number of nonfiction books, including Proust: The Search (2015) and The Hue and Cry at Our House: A Year Remembered (2017), a family memoir that describes his experience growing up gay and Jewish in Texas in the 1960s. He is also the editor of Saul Bellow: Letters (2010). Taylor teaches writing at The New School and at Columbia University's School of the Arts. He is a past fellow and current trustee of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and serves as president of the Edward F. Albee Foundation. Taylor was also a close friend and confidant of author Philip Roth (1933-2018). Taylor and Roth first met in 1995 at a sixtieth birthday celebration for Joel Conarroe, then the President of the Guggenheim Foundation. After Taylor wrote Roth his impressions of I Married a Communist in 1998, the two began speaking regularly. In 2001, Roth sent Taylor the galleys of The Dying Animal, and thereafter Taylor became a first reader for each of Roth's books. Toward the end of his life, Roth also designated Taylor as one of his two medical proxies.

Consists of a group of papers of American author Philip Roth (1933-2018) collected by his close friend and literary collaborator Benjamin Taylor (1952- ). Since the late 1990s, Taylor was a first reader of Roth's novels and later became one of Roth's two medical proxies. The collection contains materials related to Taylor's working relationship and friendship with Roth, personal records pertaining to his role as Roth's medical proxy, and drafts, notes, proofs, printed books, correspondence, and photographs Roth gifted to him, including both originals and photocopies. Of note within the gifted papers are 85 pages of early handwritten notes for Operation Shylock, an early annotated printout draft of the opening chapter of Everyman, and correspondence from John Updike. The collection also includes over 600 pages of notes, autobiographical essays, and correspondence Roth drafted and compiled for his biographers between 2000 and 2014. Much of this biographical material pertains to Roth's refutations of claims made by his first authorized biographer, Ross Miller, whom Roth accused of slandering him; as well as notes he gathered for Blake Bailey, who later took over as Roth's biographer. These extensive autobiographical writings contain detailed rebuttals of claims made by his former spouses, romantic partners, and friends, and demonstrate the care Roth took to control the public narrative of his life and literary output. There is also a small amount of correspondence between Taylor and Roth, as well as Roth's revisions and comments on a complete draft of Taylor's memoir, The Hue and Cry at Our House: A Year Remembered, which was then titled Under No Curse.

Arranged by material type.

Purchased from Glenn Horowitz Bookseller in 2018 (AM 2019-8).

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

This collection was processed by Kelly Bolding in August 2018. Finding aid written by Kelly Bolding in August 2018, repurposing some description provided by the dealer. In December 2021, some folders were physically rearranged to facilitate the administration of access restrictions. These materials (Boxes B-001208 and B-001754) were closed until January 1, 2023, and the restriction has since been lifted.

No materials were removed from the collection during 2018 processing beyond routine appraisal practices.

Publisher
Manuscripts Division
Finding Aid Author
Kelly Bolding
Finding Aid Date
2018
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

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Collection Inventory

Arrangement

Arranged chronologically.

Scope and Contents

Consists of a selection of drafts, proofs, notes, and printed materials related to Philip Roth's writings and speeches, many of which Roth gifted to Taylor and are inscribed to him.

Physical Description

3 boxes

"Epilogue" (The Facts: A Novelist's Autobiography), Photocopy of Annotated Draft, 1987 November 9. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Photocopy of heavily annotated typescript (23 pages), inscribed by hand "For Ben – Happy Birthday 2014 – Philip."

Physical Description

1 folder

Patrimony, Photocopy of First Set of Galleys, 1990 February. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Approximately 150 pages of photocopied galleys, containing Roth's extensive annotations, including both typographic corrections and substantive changes to the text throughout.

Physical Description

1 folder

Operation Shylock, Notes, 1990 September-1991 May. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Consists of 85 pages of primarily handwritten notes on yellow lined paper that represent nine months early in the process of composition of Operation Shylock. These notes illuminate Roth's preliminary planning stages, and include high- and low-level outlines, character notes for George Ziad and other characters, scene summaries, a reading list on dreams and hallucinations, and other ideas in gestation. The notes are covered in marginalia, circles, and stars, with various colors and types of ink on each page. Tucked within these notes are two computer printout pages containing the text of "Am I Reading the Papers Correctly?" ( New York Times, January 28, 1988), an opinion piece by Woody Allen that is referenced in the novel.

Physical Description

1 folder

Philip Guston Illustrations of The Breast, Photocopies (Shop Talk), 2001. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Photocopies of Philip Guston's illustrations of scenes from Roth's novel, The Breast (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1972), which appeared in a chapter about Guston in Shop Talk: A Writer and His Colleagues and Their Work (Houghton Mifflin, 2001).

Physical Description

1 folder

Il complotto contro l'America, 2005. 1 item.
Scope and Contents

Presentation copy of the The Plot Against America, translated by Vincenzo Mantovani (Giulio Einaudi editore, s.p.a., Torino, 2005), that is inscribed by Roth to Taylor: "For Ben – In his native tongue – Philip. April 2005."

Physical Description

1 item

"A Medical History" (Everyman), Draft, 2005 June 22. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

An early printout draft (41 pages) of the opening chapter of Everyman, with some handwritten revisions.

Physical Description

1 folder

Everyman, Broadside, 2006. 1 item.
Scope and Contents

Consists of a framed broadside poster (24 x 36 inches in a 27 x 39-inch frame) containing the entire text of the book in black-and-white offset print. The text is laid out in tiny print in six columns, with the printer's device in the bottom left corner and Roth's signature and the number of the print (4/10) in the bottom right corner. According to Taylor, the poster was commissioned by Roth himself as a celebratory gift to close friends.

Physical Description

1 item

Exit Ghost, Draft 6, 2006 November 2. 2 folders.
Scope and Contents

Typescript (226 pages) inscribed to Taylor on November 4, 2006, along with 12 revision leaves. Also included is a letter from Taylor to Roth giving his initial reaction to the text.

Physical Description

2 folders

"Change of Life" (The Humbling), 2007 August 18. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Printout draft (24 pages) from the beginning of The Humbling.

Physical Description

1 folder

"80th Birthday at Newark Museum", 2013 March 19. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Fax (April 21, 2014) of a heavily annotated typescript draft of a speech Roth gave for his 80th birthday, with additional handwritten annotations made after faxing and inscribed to Taylor, "Happy Birthday, Ben – Philip 8/20/14" (38 pages).

Physical Description

1 folder

"For the 2013 PEN Literary Gala, PEN Literary Service Award", 2013 April 24-30. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Two typescript drafts of a speech (8-9 pages).

Physical Description

1 folder

"On the Occasion of Receiving an Honorary Degree from the Jewish Theological Seminary", 2013 May. 1 item.
Scope and Contents

Typescript draft of a speech (1 page).

Physical Description

1 item

"On Receiving the Légion d'honneur", circa 2013 September 27. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Two photocopies of annotated typescript drafts (each 6 pages) for two versions of a speech, one of which has additional handwritten annotations made after copying.

Physical Description

1 folder

"For the Emerson-Thoreau Award, American Academy of Arts and Sciences", 2013 October 11. 1 item.
Scope and Contents

Typescript draft of a speech, along with two copies a typescript selection (2 pages) from Sabbath's Theater, beginning, "He was from the shore..."

Physical Description

1 item

Philip Roth at 80: A Celebration, 2014. 1 item.
Scope and Contents

Presentation copy of a published volume of remarks delivered on the occasion of Philip Roth's 80th birthday (March 19, 2013) at the Newark Museum (New York: The Library of America, 2014), inscribed on title page by Roth to Taylor: "For Ben – who was there – [signed] 2014." Includes remarks delivered by Jonathan Lethem, Hermione Lee, Alain Finkielkraut, Claudia Roth Pierpont, Edna O'Brien, and Roth himself.

Physical Description

1 item

"On Receiving the Yaddo Award", 2014 May 14. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Three typescript draft versions (4-9 pages) of a speech, one of which is inscribed "For Ben with love – P. 5/17/14."

Physical Description

1 folder

"Marriage a la Mode", 2014 June-July. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Two draft versions (annotated typescripts, 7-8 pages) of an essay written in response to an accusation posed by Roth's biographer, Blake Bailey, that he would not accept blame for the dissolution of his two marriages. This essay is not the same as the piece of the same title in My Life as a Man.

Physical Description

1 folder

Under No Curse: A Year Remembered, Draft by Benjamin Taylor with Philip Roth's Revisions, undated. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

An early draft of Taylor's memoir (spiral-bound computer printout, 139 pages), which was published in May 2017 as The Hue and Cry at Our House: A Year Remembered and dedicated to Roth. This copy contains extensive handwritten annotations by Roth on almost every page. The comments cover Taylor's structure, content, wording, spelling, pacing, and other aspects of his writing that Roth either appreciated or thought could be improved.

Physical Description

1 folder

Scope and Contents

These materials relate to Roth's relationship with his authorized biographers and his efforts to manage the information that went into his biography. Roth chose Ross Miller as his biographer in 2004. Miller was a longtime friend of Roth's, as well as a professor of English and comparative literature at the University of Connecticut, architecture critic, author of several books, and editor of the Library of America's multi-volume edition of Roth's writings. Roth's opinion of Miller rapidly declined, however. He accused him of deliberately avoiding interviewing his family and friends and of slandering him to those he did interview. The arrangement was terminated in 2009. Materials collected here include over 600 pages of Roth's notes refuting the information Miller acquired during his interviews, as well as copies of related correspondence. With Miller gone, Roth took it upon himself to compose Notes for My Biographer, a 300-page point-by-point refutation of his ex-wife Claire Bloom's memoir, Leaving a Doll's House. Some correspondence and notes pertain to this work. In 2012, Roth picked a new biographer: Blake Bailey, the biographer for Richard Yates and John Cheever, whose biography of Roth is under contract with W.W. Norton & Company. Materials related to Bailey include his proposal for the biography, notes Roth provided to Bailey, and correspondence. There are also some essays by others and press clippings about Roth and Roth's notes critiquing reading guides about his work.

Physical Description

2 boxes

Physical Description

6 folders

Philip Roth Letter to Ross Miller, 2000 October 24. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Photocopy of a letter which Roth later annotated to indicate that he had gifted Miller money and sent to Benjamin Taylor.

Physical Description

1 folder

Ross Miller Questions for Barbara Epstein, 2006 February 17-18. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Two sets of questions by Miller for an interview with Epstein. The questions mostly pertain to mutual friends and Roth's relationship with and marriage to Claire Bloom.

Physical Description

1 folder

Notes on Ross Miller Interviews for Hermoine Lee, 2011. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Consists of a packet of materials (around 130 pages) with a cover letter that Roth created for Hermoine Lee. It contains Roth's refutations of the contents of interviews Ross Miller conducted for his biography, including essays titled "Money," "Pain and Illness History," "Ross Miller's limitless malice toward me and my mother," as well as notes on Miller's audio material and his interview with Bob Brustein.

Physical Description

1 folder

Notes on Ross Miller Interviews for Benjamin Taylor, 2011. 3 folders.
Scope and Contents

Consists of a packet of materials (over 500 pages) with a cover letter that Roth created for Benjamin Taylor. It contains Roth's refutations of the contents of interviews Ross Miller conducted for his biography. The front matter indicates that these materials were intended for his authorized biographer (who then appears to have been Hermoine Lee).

Physical Description

3 folders

Physical Description

4 folders

Notes on Marriages and Correspondence with Jack Miles, 2012. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Includes a packet of materials assembled by Roth for his biographer, including printouts of essays titled " Why did you marry Maggie? Why did the marriage end?" and "On the effect of my first marriage on my work," along with a group of photocopied correspondence with Jack Miles beginning when Roth asked Miles to read the manuscript of Notes for My Biographer.

Physical Description

1 folder

"An Open Letter to Wikipedia", 2012 August 10. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Includes a packed of materials assembled by Roth for his biographer, including a printout draft, with copied annotations, of Roth's open letter to Wikipedia regarding the entry on The Human Stain (17 pages), as well as a draft of "The Facts about Coleman Silk: A Supplement to 'An Open Letter to Wikipedia'" (16 pages), and a cover letter titled "On Wikipedia's 'Facts'" (3 pages).

Physical Description

1 folder

Blake Bailey Proposal for Roth's Biography, 2012 August 28. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Philip Roth Letters to Blake Bailey, 2012-2015. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Includes printouts of lengthy letters from Roth to Bailey including essays on various aspects of his life intended as source material for his biography. There is a letter titled "Grandma's File," which encloses a photocopy of a letter sent by Roth to his grandmother in October 1952, while he was a junior at Bucknell College. Many of the letters pertain to Roth's romantic relationships, including with "Maggie" (Margaret Martinson Williams) and Barbara Sproul. Others relate to Roth's experiences with depression and physical pain, his friendships, and refuting claims made by others about him. There is also a printout of an email from Blake Bailey (September 10, 2012) that includes a transcript of recordings of President Richard Nixon talking with H.R. Haldeman and Charles Colson about Roth.

Physical Description

1 folder

Writings by Others about Philip Roth, 2003-2014. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Printouts and copies of essays by others about Roth.

Physical Description

1 folder

Comments on Reading Group Guides, undated. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Consists of Roth's annotated copies of reading group guides for his books, dismissing or editing many of the questions.

Physical Description

1 folder

Questions for Roth for Indignation Day, 2008. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Photocopy of an annotated list of questions.

Physical Description

1 folder

Press Clippings about Roth, 2001-2005. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Scope and Contents

Consists of a small selection of original or photocopied correspondence of Philip Roth, both outgoing and incoming. While most files consists of only one or a few letters, the file with Benjamin Taylor is the most substantial.

Arrangement

Arranged alphabetically by correspondent.

Physical Description

8 folders

"Caro", 2013 December 23-26. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Two letters from Roth (photocopy and printout).

Physical Description

1 folder

Klímová, Helena, 2011-2013. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Consists of copies of letters between Roth and Klímová, along with related writings and Roth's cover letter for Peter Godwin at PEN regarding his relationship with Helena and Ivan Klímová.

Physical Description

1 folder

Newark Public Library, 2005-2013. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Letter from Roth in 2013 and notes for a speech accepting an honor in 2005.

Physical Description

1 folder

Pierpont, Claudia Roth, 2012 December 8. 1 item.
Scope and Contents

Letter from Roth including a review of In History's Grip by Michael Kimmage (Stanford University Press, 2012).

Physical Description

1 item

Rudin, Max, 2012 March 12. 1 item.
Scope and Contents

Letter to the publisher of Library of America regarding numerous typographical errors Roth reports he found in the Library of America edition of Operation Shylock.

Physical Description

1 item

Taylor, Benjamin, 2007-2017. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Consists primarily of letters and cards from Roth to Taylor, including regarding comments on Taylor's writings, letters Taylor was to pass onto others, instructions for his memorial service program, a birthday invitation, and personal notes. There is also a photocopy of a photograph inscribed to Taylor of Roth's great-aunt Meema Gitcha, who appears in Operation Shylock, Roth's letter in support of Taylor for a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a thank-you letter to Taylor from Cheryl Hurley of the Library of America.

Physical Description

1 folder

Updike, John, 1990-1992. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Includes a typed, signed postcard, as well as photocopies of three letters from John Updike and one from Miranda Updike.

Physical Description

1 folder

Winard, Barbara, 2009 April 19. 1 item.
Scope and Contents

One letter from Winard regarding the polio epidemic in Newark in 1944.

Physical Description

1 item

Scope and Contents

Consists of 13 black-and-white and color photographs of Philip Roth, his home in Connecticut, and inspirations for the scenes in his writings, many of which are captioned by him by hand.

Physical Description

2 boxes

Photographs of Philip Roth and Others, circa 1951-2009. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Photographs include: "(1951) Bradley Beach, NJ. Stan Pressman, Jerry Lechter [, Philip Roth];" "Two tall kids. Maxine Groffsky. P.R. Back of Roth Moorestown house. 1956;" "England, Summer 1968. Photo by Ann Mudge, used on inside back leaf of Portnoy's Complaint jacket;" [Roth drinking tea]. Stamped "Property of Time Incorporated;" [Roth making a point]. Stamped "Property of Time Incorporated;" "With Mel Tumin, Conn. 1974. Mel was a perpetual pedagogue and here, once again, he is straightening me out. But gently;" "Prague. Milan Kundera, Barbara Sproul, P.R. 1974;" "In my First Grade classroom at Chancellor Ave. School [Newark, NJ]."

Physical Description

1 folder

Nancy Crampton Photograph of Philip Roth Sitting on a Stone Wall, 1990. 1 item.
Scope and Contents

Inscribed: "For Ben / New Year's 2013 / The best of friends – P. © 1990 Nancy Crampton."

Physical Description

1 item

Photographs of Philip Roth's Connecticut House, undated. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Three photographs: "West Side [of Roth's Connecticut house];" "South Garden [of Roth's Connecticut house];" "[East Side of Roth's Connecticut house]."

Physical Description

1 folder

"Model for Levov Glove Factory" (from American Pastoral), undated. 1 item.
Scope and Contents

1 photograph.

Physical Description

1 item

Medical Records, 2010-2017. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Consists of Taylor's file of medical records on Roth, which he maintained due to his role as one of Roth's designated health care proxies. This file includes multiple revisions of various documents, including a list of hospitalizations from 1943 to 2017, a list of medications, a signed letter from Roth to Taylor regarding his burial and funeral instructions (June 7, 2017), health care instructions designating Taylor and Julia Golier as joint Health Care Representatives, a HIPAA waiver, and a document from an emergency room visit.

Physical Description

1 folder

Print, Suggest