To Hell with Clinton’s My Life

This is the biography that I want to read. Christopher Goffard of the St. Petersburg Times interviewed Ross Miller about his upcoming “definitive” biography of Philip Roth and learned about their relationship, which extends more than twenty years and which seems to have been founded on an intellectual kinship.

one day, I got a phone call, and it was Philip on the other end. He said, “Is it all right if I send you a package?” I said, “Okay, what’s in it?” He said, “Well, it’s a book I’m rewriting. I’d like to see if you’d like to take a look at it. I’d like to hear what you think of it.” He needed to shake it up, to be certain he was on the right track. It was kind of a noble experiment. Why not let somebody in at this early stage?

Which book was it?

It was The Counterlife (1987). I went at that with a real appetite. It’s really the beginning of all this great writing. So I had a pile of notes on every page. I guess it was about a 500- to 600-page manuscript. I called him back when I had finished it. I said, “What do you want to do with this?” He said, “How awful is it?” I said, “It’s not that awful.” I joke with him. I say, “I have bad news. There’s a good book in here somewhere.”

I went . . . to his place in Connecticut, and we spent 13 hours talking about the book. We both realized it was a bit of a miracle to make a friend this late in the game. That really made it impossible when he asked me to think about writing a biography. I thought, “Well, look, I didn’t think of it as material.”