In eight lyrical chapters Taylor moves back and forth in time, presenting a series of vignettes and remembered conversations that offer an unvarnished view of a brilliant, driven man who was controversial almost from the start of his career, largely for his portrayal of his fellow Jews and women ... while he recognizes Roth's flaws—chiefly, an unending sense of grievance and sometimes unseemly desire for revenge—he loves him anyway ... In the end, Roth emerges as a funny, philosophical, even tragic figure, raging toward the end against 'the stupendous decimation that is death sweeping us all away'— a quote from The Human Stain that Taylor uses at the front of the book.
Roth died in 2018, leaving 31 books behind; like other Roth lovers, I will always want more. Benjamin Taylor's new memoir temporarily eases the loss by giving us more of Roth's voice in conversation: brilliant, profane, and so very funny .... Taylor summons up anecdotes and clear-eyed assessments of what made Roth tick. There's an appealing quality of randomness to this slim memoir that makes it feel like we're tagging along with the two friends ... The greatest pleasure of Here We Are is hearing Roth's voice again new, especially when he's talking about his writing.
Taylor resurrects Roth largely through quotation; long swathes of conversation make up most of the book ... I was skeptical, as I often am when reading scene-driven memoirs, of the pages upon pages of quotation, the whole paragraphs of Roth’s winsome ranting conveyed, supposedly, verbatim. But my doubt was somewhat mollified by Taylor’s mention, in a brief aside, of jotting down a line as soon as he reasonably could ... The reading experience is sumptuous and over too soon, like life at its best; I didn’t want the party to end, the guests to go ... Held up to the light by Taylor, the thin-skinned Roth proves to be translucent as stained glass, a Jewish patron saint of rage and writing.
... gorgeous ... a deeply loving, occasionally irreverent portrait of the artist. It’s also something of a paean to friendship itself. At this time of disconnection and disorientation, Taylor reminds us of the anchoring power of human connection ... Taylor captures Roth’s idiosyncrasies.
Taylor, a novelist and professor, shares these less-than-flattering details not to diminish his longtime friend, but to model the candor that Roth demanded ... At times [Taylor] is more a reporter than confidante, and though he bore witness to the worst of Roth’s final days, wracked by painkillers and dementia, the author remains a cryptic figure, seen from a distance ... A more complete picture will likely emerge when Blake Bailey’s full-dress Roth biography is published. Still, for Roth fans, Taylor’s book is essential reading, an affectionate but never sentimental portrait of the furious, divisive, and comic personality who produced a handful of the past century’s finest novels.
... openly the work of an idolator ... One just can’t help getting the sense that Roth believed that in speaking to Mr. Taylor, he was crafting sentences for posterity...does anyone really talk like this? Even a Great American Novelist?
... a brief but enjoyable journey through the life of a legendary author that seamlessly moves from discussing Roth’s works to relationships with such fellow writers as Saul Bellow and John Updike. This is not ponderous literary analysis, but a light and thoughtful examination of a great writer and how he performs his craft. More than anything, Taylor has produced a book about conversations and companionship ... Many wide-ranging conversations and observations between them populate this less-than-200-page portrait, a touching recreation of a lasting friendship. For me, it is also a reminder that there are still some Philip Roth novels I have yet to read --- and now is as good a time as any to start.
Taylor has crafted a heartwarming portrayal of his friendship with Roth that is clear-eyed and largely unsentimental. He writes that Roth often used to say, 'Two things await me, death and my biographer. I don’t know which is to be more feared.' Taylor’s memoir provides little Roth need have feared.
Yes, mammoth-sized biographies of the great writer will arrive one day, before too long, but Taylor’s intimate tale will never be replaced by any single work, no matter how big and comprehensive it is ... Unlike some memoirs written by the friends of famous people, this one doesn’t dish real dirt, though the information isn’t all glowing. Here We Are reveals Roth at home and up close, as he has never been revealed before. The reader hears him, sees him, and feels his palpable presence. Here he is, big as life eating, drinking, thinking, and laughing ... offers striking bits and memorable pieces from Roth’s monologues at the dinner table and beyond in which he talks about sex, women, marriage, and divorce ... Taylor says he spent thousands of hours with Roth. Only some are included here. One wonders which hours have been omitted. Many readers will want more. They’ll have to wait for the mammoth biography.
... beautifully written ... a far-ranging narrative that moves from allusions to Roth’s fiction to his relationships with writers such as Saul Bellow and John Updike. Insights into personalities and obsessions are gained through the friends’ numerous casual encounters, and while a sense of deep affection between the men permeates the text, Taylor’s observations are neither sentimental nor uncritical. As Roth himself was a masterly, insightful observer, Taylor, too, understands his subject keenly ... Like Roth, Taylor is a terrific raconteur, and readers are likely to be as entertained by his opinions as those of the Pulitzer Prize winning novelist. An eloquent and touching account that should appeal to all who appreciate the value of true friendship.
... in this slim, affectionate memoir, Taylor perfectly captures the essence of Roth’s charmingly enigmatic humor and complex behavior. He generously shares memories of their somewhat unexpected friendship, honing in on their quiet, often amusing moments together ... The author liberally quotes Roth throughout, yet some passages seem to be derived from Roth’s novels (a notes section would be helpful) ... A touching and entertaining portrait of Roth that is sure to delight his many readers.