As a fan of Roth’s and a lover of nontraditional platonic relationships, this book seemed to me to capture the spirit of a man as he navigated his complicated life through the lens of another man that knew and loved him more than any other person on the planet. He is that man that should have won the Nobel Prize, that man that captured life as an American, a Jew, a Lover, an Athiest, a skeptic, an antifascist, and so much more; better than anyone else – even Updike (strike me down, gods of literature).
This book is not a long one, and could easily be read in one sitting. It is a poetic portrait of Roth’s career, but also a poetic memoir of the friendship that blossomed between Roth and Taylor; their loves, navigating their lives, and also the timeline of his oeuvre as it is released into the world. Taylor’s prose is light in words and heavy in meaning. His relationship with Roth is clearly and beautifully succinct, tracing their early years through several moments of panic in the back of an ambulance as Roth gives directions to the driver on how to get to his preferred hospital. This is a book of pure love. One that uses his literary releases and marriages as a roadmap to a semblance of nirvana; a nirvana that by the end of his life was the perfect settlement of time, place, and relationships that could only be his.
As a writer, I was interested in his career, of course. The book advances that are no longer, the homes, the book tours… But for Taylor, these are ignored as the meaningless trappings of his career. Taylor treats us to the true emotional vibrations of a life, the inspirations and the powertrain of his true Great American Novels, and the workings of experience that lead to a life that makes his one that feels like it matters – as if every C rating that hangs in the window of their favorite Manhattan deli is a worse fate than the four divorces that brought us together for the sandwich we’re enjoying for whatever time we have left.
This is a spectacular portrait of true love; that of a writer and a dear friend.