October 27, 2016
Philip Roth is donating his private book collection to the Newark Public Library
by Taylor Sperry
Pulitzer Prize– and National Book Award–winning author Philip Roth is donating his collection of 4,000 books to Newark Public Library, the writer’s “other home” while he was a student at Newark Rutgers in the 1950s.
Charles McGrath reports for the New York Times that Roth’s books will be housed in a room specially designed by architect Henry Myerberg and organized to reflect how they were arranged in Roth’s home: “The books will be shelved in Newark exactly as they are in Connecticut,” McGrath writes. “Not a window into Mr. Roth’s mind exactly, but physical evidence of the eclectic writers who helped shape it: Salinger, Bellow, Malamud, Kafka, Bruno Schulz.”
“I wanted it preserved as it was, if only for historical interest: What was an American writer reading in the second half of the 20th century,” Roth, who is eighty-three, told McGrath. He added, “I’m glad that my books are all going to be together. I don’t know why. I’m not going to be together, but let them be together.”
The library, naturally, sees the bequest as a great boon. Not only are many of the books heavily underlined and annotated, but Roth’s contribution has “really sparked a renaissance here at the library,” trustee Rosemary Bloom said. To celebrate the occasion, the library is launching the Philip Roth Lecture series, with the inaugural presentation to be held tonight by the novelist Zadie Smith.
Taylor Sperry is an editor at Melville House.