Philip Roth Reads “In Memory of a Friend, Teacher & Mentor” (A Free Download Benefiting a Public Library)

roth reading

Philip Roth announced his retire­ment from the writ­ing life last fall, a few months shy of his 80th birth­day. Now, on a com­put­er in his New York City apart­ment, hangs a Post-It note that reads, “The strug­gle with writ­ing is over.” There won’t be anoth­er nov­el. There won’t be a 29th.

Admir­ers of Philip Roth may have to set­tle for the occa­sion­al odd pub­li­ca­tion, like the eulo­gy Roth pub­lished in the New York Times in April, when his high school teacher and long-time friend passed away. His name was Bob Lowen­stein. He taught at Wee­quahic High School in Newark, New Jer­sey, and Roth came to know him like this:

Bob was my home­room teacher. This meant that I saw him first thing in the morn­ing, every sin­gle day of the school year. I was nev­er to take a lan­guage course with him — I had Made­moi­selle Glucks­man for French and Señori­ta Baleroso for Span­ish — but I didn’t for­get him. Who at Wee­quahic did? Con­se­quent­ly, when it came his turn to be mauled in Congress’s anti-Com­mu­nist cru­sade of the 1940s and 1950s, I fol­lowed his fate as best I could in the sto­ries that I had my par­ents clip from the Newark news­pa­pers and mail to me.

I don’t remem­ber how we came togeth­er again around 1990, about 40 years after I’d grad­u­at­ed Wee­quahic High. I was back in Amer­i­ca from hav­ing lived large­ly abroad for some 12 years, and either I wrote to him about some­thing or he wrote to me about some­thing and we met for lunch at Zel­da and his house in West Orange. In the spir­it of Bob Lowen­stein, I will put the mat­ter in plain lan­guage, direct­ly as I can: I believe we fell in love with each oth­er.

In recent weeks, Roth vis­it­ed the head­quar­ters of — also based in Newark, New Jer­sey — and record­ed an audio ver­sion of his trib­ute. You can down­load it for free at Audi­ble (or hear an excerpt below), and, for every down­load, Audi­ble will donate $1 to the Newark Pub­lic Library, cap­ping at $25,000. The down­load requires reg­is­ter­ing with Audi­ble.

Sep­a­rate­ly, if you want to down­load a nov­el by Philip Roth, you can always head over to and reg­is­ter for a 30-day free tri­al. You can down­load any audio­book for free. Then, when the tri­al is over, you can con­tin­ue your Audi­ble sub­scrip­tion (as I do — I love the ser­vice), or can­cel it, and still keep the audio book. And, by the way, when­ev­er some­one signs up for a free tri­al, it helps sup­port Open Cul­ture. Also find more great reads in our col­lec­tion of Free Audio Books.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.