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.