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Patrimony: A True Story Paperback – June 3, 1996

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Editorial Reviews Review

With the honesty of a skilled biographer and the sensitivity of a caring son, Roth chronicles the life of his father, Herman, in this gripping work which won a 1991 National Book Critics Circle Award. Roth holds little back in describing his father as a man of rare intensity and fierce independence who, for better or worse, stood by his principles and held others to his own rigorous standards. Writes Roth, "His obsessive stubbornness--his stubborn obsessiveness--had very nearly driven my mother to a breakdown in her final years." Frank throughout, Roth calls his father "a pitiless realist, but I wasn't his offspring for nothing, and I could be pretty realistic, too."

From Publishers Weekly

Alter ego Nathan Zuckerman doesn't appear in these pages, andneither is there any sleight of hand blurring the line betweenliterature and life. Instead, here is Roth (NBCC Award-winning TheCounterlife ) at his most humane as he pens a kaddish to his recentlydeceased father, Herman. A vigorous 86-year-old, Roth pere wakes upone morning and half his face is paralyzed; soon he is deaf in one earand the verdict is a benign brain tumor. Surgery is ruled out for theoctogenarian, and the author is a helpless, horrified witness to hisfather's humiliating demise, "utterly isolated within a body that hadbecome a terrifying escape-proof enclosure, the holding pen in aslaughterhouse." In a fast-paced, cogent memoir, Roth, whose filialdevotion and awe are tempered with clear-eyed observational powers,ranges far afield and discusses the anti-Semitism of the insurancefirm that employed Herman Roth for 40 years; Herman's perfectionismand his latter-day disregard for his wife whom he neverthelesselevated to quasi-sainthood after death; Herman's abandonment of hisphylacteries in a locker at the local YMHA; the author's quintuplebypass surgery weeks before his father's death; and Herman'sincontinence and the ample size of his genitals. BOMC alternate.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (June 3, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679752935
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679752936
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #307,565 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

In the 1990s Philip Roth won America's four major literary awards in succession: the National Book Critics Circle Award for Patrimony (1991), the PEN/Faulkner Award for Operation Shylock (1993), the National Book Award for Sabbath's Theater (1995), and the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for American Pastoral (1997). He won the Ambassador Book Award of the English-Speaking Union for I Married a Communist (1998); in the same year he received the National Medal of Arts at the White House. Previously he won the National Book Critics Circle Award for The Counterlife (1986) and the National Book Award for his first book, Goodbye, Columbus (1959). In 2000 he published The Human Stain, concluding a trilogy that depicts the ideological ethos of postwar America. For The Human Stain Roth received his second PEN/Faulkner Award as well as Britain's W. H. Smith Award for the Best Book of the Year. In 2001 he received the highest award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Gold Medal in Fiction, given every six years "for the entire work of the recipient." In 2005 The Plot Against America received the Society of American Historians Award for "the outstanding historical novel on an American theme for 2003--2004." In 2007 Roth received the PEN/Faulkner Award for Everyman.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAME on October 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
In this work we see a kinder and more humane Philip Roth than we see in his fictions. His devotion to his father through the father's illness and loss of his own powers is moving. In the course of it Roth himself suffers a near fatal heart attack. With Roth there is always a special intensity and often beauty in the writing. This is one of his best books. It portrays a painful and difficult human reality that most come to know at one time or another, with dedication and real art.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 12, 1997
Format: Paperback
Patrimony is a non-fiction account of the last years of Philip Roth's father, Herman, covering as well the family history which was so important to Herman. Not only is Roth a fine stylist, but the sensitivity of this account transcends even the exceptional style. By turns tragic, sardonic, humerous and moving, this book is a window into the values of late twentieth-century America, both good and bad
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Simon Cleveland VINE VOICE on May 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
There is something sad, something utterly painful about book tributes to fathers. When reading Wiesel's "Night", Franzen's "My Father's Brain" or Roth's "Patrimony", one comes to grips with a difficult reality, of the unnatural heart ache and grief that accompany aging and what they do in the mean time to the father-son relationship.

"Patrimony" offers a glimpse of this aging, of the deterioration of the body. As one reads, one physically partakes into the burden of loosing a loved one, of facing the difficult decisions of what comes next, of recalling memories, of learning to struggle, of the heartbreaking doctor appointments...Philip Roth never holds back. He doesn't protect from the sorrow, or grief. He tells his life's story with honesty and shameless openness that requires not only brilliant clarity, but also the strength of love, love of the kind passed down from a good father to a worthy son.

This is a difficult book with an extraordinary writing and should be considered by anyone who has, is or will ever care for an aging parent.

- by Simon Cleveland
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Monica Krieger Faria on July 5, 2005
Format: Paperback
With such clarity, love, and understanding of both sides, Philip Roth writes an autobiographical account of his relationship with his father, who is 86 years old at the time the book begins. Philip Roth is to be commended for showing not only the duality in taking on such a role, but also how roles reverse...This is a must read for those who are in the role reversal, and coming to terms with a parent!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Blaine Greenfield on March 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Heard the CD version of PATRIMONY: A TRUE STORY

by Philip Roth, the touching story of how his 86-year-old

father battles with the brain tumor that eventually kills him.

If you've ever been in the situation where you have had a parent

or grandparent get old right before your eyes, then this

is a book for you . . . it will help you deal with the situation

better and, also, to understand the aging process.

I really felt I got to know Herman Roth and enjoyed in

sharing his reminisces about growing up in Newark, as

well as about life.

In addition, I could relate to the difficulties that Philip Roth

was going through in attempting to care for his

father--especially when he, too, had to deal with a serious

illness during the process.

The narration by George Guidall was excellent . . . his interpretation

of the elder Roth's voice was truly amazing.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Alter Wiener on January 1, 2014
Format: Paperback
The definition of patrimony is an estate inherited from one's father. Philip Milton Roth, in his book PATRIMONY is, in my view, not what he inherited but rather what he bestowed upon his parents, Bess and Herman Roth, first generation Americans, children of Jewish immigrants from Poland. The college educated Roth never looked down at his father, who had to quit school for good at the age of twelve to help support his parents and all their children. He cared for his father while aging and inflicted with many severe health issues. His words and deeds for his father inflicted with a brain tumor evoke inspiration. Despite the tendency of shedding the burden of Jewish traditions and proscriptions, Roth dutifully abided by the Fifth Commandment of the Bible `Honor your Father and Mother.' He knew how to prioritize principles in a right way; he was emotionally entwined with his father. Any child who respects and cares for his or her parents, especially aging parents merits my admiration; so does Roth, he deemed it to be a moral imperative to help any old person, especially a father. This usual phenomenon in my generation and in Roth's generation is not as common today's generation as reflected in "Generation Me" by Jean M. Twenge. An extreme case we read in "Patrimony": a cab driver told Roth:" I didn't go to my father's funeral (page 157)" This must have been an emotional agony to the rest of the family and to his father's friends.

Roth is a literary power, a prolific and successful novelist; he is one of the most awarded U.S. writers of his generation. He is a possessor of a well stocked-mind and a searing wit. Much of Roth's fiction revolves around semi-autobiographical themes. Patrimony is an autobiographical true story, a personal memoir.
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