Look Inside Philip Roth’s Personal Library

NEWARK — Philip Roth was not valuable in regards to the books in his private library.

When he died in 2018, he left behind greater than 7,000 marked-up paperbacks and hardcovers, most of them tucked into the built-in cabinets of his Upper West Side condominium and Warren, Conn., residence. He donated them to the Newark Public Library, and when Nadine Sergejeff, the supervising librarian of what would turn into the Philip Roth Personal Library, checked out what she had, she discovered treasures.

The books have been filled with marginalia, as if Roth was having conversations with the writers or making cranky observations about inconsistencies of their work. But the books have been additionally full of letters — generally correspondence between Roth and the authors, different instances messages that had nothing to do with the guide. Sergejeff additionally discovered purchasing lists, journey itineraries, pressed flowers, sweet wrappers, toothpicks and straws.

“All the stuff you find at the bottom of a purse,” stated Rosemary Steinbaum, a Newark library trustee. “He really used his library. He really lived with it and used it.”

About three,700 of the books Roth owned are actually on show on the Newark Public Library. 

That assortment, now housed in an elegantly restored room within the Newark Public Library, opens to the general public this week. Roth, who was born in Newark and steadily wrote about it, selected the situation, choosing what was once a space for storing for artwork books.

There, guests will see about three,700 books from his private library, together with a four-volume set in regards to the historical past of presidential elections, a number of copies of Kafka’s “The Trial” and a marked-up version of “Incredible iPhone Apps for Dummies” on one of many highest cabinets.

The library may very well be of explicit curiosity now, given the discharge and ensuing controversy surrounding Roth’s approved biography, and the will by some students for extra entry to correspondence and different paperwork offering perception into his life and work.

Here are a few of the gadgets on show.

Roth owned a number of typewriters, together with this Olivetti Underwood mannequin, although Sergejeff stated he additionally wrote his books in longhand and at instances on a pc.

Roth as soon as requested his brother, Sanford, an artist who was generally known as Sandy, to attract the ground plan of their childhood residence. The drawing, which Roth referred to whereas writing his 2004 novel, “The Plot Against America,” was displayed on his front room wall in Manhattan.

When Roth was a camp counselor at Pocono Highland Camps, Steinbaum stated, he had a summer time romance with a fellow counselor named Micki Ruttenberg. She instructed Steinbaum that someday at camp, after she had recited a stanza from the Persian poem “Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám” in an effort to impress him, Roth, who was 19 on the time, introduced her with this listing, titled “how to make Micky [sic] an intellectual!” His suggestions included George Orwell, Truman Capote and Marcel Proust.

Roth’s mom, Bess Roth, compiled newspaper articles and different clippings about him. Only certainly one of her scrapbooks is open on show, however the library has seven of them.

Visitors can see the highest hat that the novelist Saul Bellow was sporting the night time he accepted the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1976.

A replica of Henry Miller’s “The Tropic of Cancer” incorporates Roth’s Post-it notes and markings.

Notes contained in the mud jacket of “The Nightmare Decade,” by Fred J. Cook, embrace character names for what would turn into Roth’s 1998 novel, “I Married a Communist.”

Some of the furnishings from Roth’s Connecticut writing studio can be on view, together with his standing desk and Eames chair.

Dried flowers have been discovered pressed inside books about plant species. Roth and Julia Golier, certainly one of his literary executors, used to take walks with the books round his Connecticut residence so they may determine what they noticed.

Most of the notes on this galley proof for Roth’s 1983 novel “The Anatomy Lesson” have been his personal, however at the least one marking was made by Joel Conarroe, a author and longtime good friend of Roth’s, who donated it.

Roth didn’t seem to love this version of “Down and Out in Paris and London.” Next to a quote from The New York Times Book Review on the duvet, Roth wrote, “Stupid quotation.” On the again, the place the jacket copy described George Orwell’s guide as “this unusual novel — in good part autobiographical,” Roth scrawled, “It’s not a novel.”