Philip Roth, the prize-winning novelist and fearless narrator of sex, death, assimilation, and fate, from the comic madness of Portnoy's Complaint to the elegiac lyricism of American Pastoral, died Tuesday night at age 85. Roth's literary agent, Andrew Wylie, says he died in a New York City hospital of congestive heart failure. Author of more than 25 books, Roth was a fierce satirist and uncompromising realist, confronting readers in a bold, direct style that scorned false sentiment or hopes for heavenly reward, the AP reports. Roth was among the greatest writers never to win the Nobel Prize. But he received virtually every other literary honor, including two National Book Awards, two National Book Critics Circle prizes and, in 1998, the Pulitzer for American Pastoral.
Roth was born in 1933 in Newark, New Jersey, a time and place he remembered lovingly in The Facts, American Pastoral, and other works. The scolding, cartoonish parents in the Jewish family life of his novels were pure fiction. He adored his parents, especially his father, an insurance salesman to whom he paid tribute in the memoir Patrimony. He was in his 20s when he won his first award and awed critics by producing some of his most acclaimed novels in his 60s and 70s, including The Human Stain and Sabbath's Theater, a savage narrative of lust and mortality he considered his finest work. In 2012, he announced that he had stopped writing fiction and would instead dedicate himself to helping biographer Blake Bailey complete his life story. By 2015, he had retired from public life altogether. (Read more Philip Roth stories.)