Books: A Surprising Mid-Life Striptease

( THE FACTS: A NOVELIST'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY by Philip Roth

Farrar Straus & Giroux; 195 pages; $17.95

Shortly before the publication of his novel The Counterlife (1987), Philip Roth remarked, "If I ever wrote an autobiography, I'd call it The Counterbook." Fat chance, or so it seemed at the time. For nearly 30 years, Roth had been hearing accusations that he was merely a closet biographer, that his heroes, whether named David Kepesh, Peter Tarnopol, Alexander Portnoy or Nathan Zuckerman, were simply transparent disguises for their self-obsessed creator. Finding that denials did nothing to stem such charges, Roth responded by heaping coals...

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