Here We Are: My Friendship With Philip Roth
A deeply felt, beautifully crafted meditation on friendship and loss in the vein of A Year of Magical Thinking, and a touching portrait of Philip Roth from his closest friend.
I had a baseball question on the tip of my tongue: What was the name of “the natural,” the player shot by a stalker in a Chicago hotel room? He gave me an amused look that darkened into puzzlement, then fear. Then he pitched forward into the soup, unconscious. When I entered the examining room twenty minutes after our arrival at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital, Philip said, “No more books.” Thus he announced his retirement.
So begins Benjamin Taylor’s Here We Are, the unvarnished portrait of his best friend and one of America’s greatest writers. Needless to say, Philip Roth’s place in the canon is secure, but what is less clear is what the man himself was like. In Here We Are, Benjamin Taylor’s beautifully constructed memoir, we see him as a mortal man, experiencing the joys and sorrows of aging, reflecting on his own writing, and doing something we all love to do: passing the time in the company of his closest friend.
Praise & Reviews
“If you never met Philip Roth, you can now, for Ben Taylor’s new hook enacts a kind of resurrection. In addition to bringing a mastery of the writer’s work, Taylor has somehow managed to conjure the living man—someone I found wholly at odds with his public persona. Here is the Roth I knew rendered at his most antic, hilarious, rancorous, tender. Forget the work of Boswell’s Johnson, I have never read a more touching portrait of literary friendship. Smart, moving, wise—Taylor’s page-turning book sets a new standard for both memoir and literary biography.”
—Mary Karr, author of The Liars Club
“Benjamin Taylor and Philip Roth lived for a time in friendship — that rare, true element. Like that friendship, this account is unsparing, yet loyal and kind. It is also funny. Here We Are made me laugh until its last pages. I was in tears when I closed the book. I had to read it over again, immediately. I’m grateful to have it.”
“Rare and remarkable. A pleasure to read as a revival of Philip’s presence, of course, but also as a beautifully novelistic study of two very different men converging on a shared set of obsessions and mutual comforts. Taylor preserves his hero without entombing him. It’s Roth to the life.”
“A great friendship, that chaste but passionate love, is perhaps also the great undertold story of human passion. Ben Taylor’s memoir of his friendship with Philip Roth changes all that. This beauty of testimony, spangled with humor and edged with abiding grief and gratitude, is a classic on first reading.”
—Patricia Hampl, author of The Florist’s Daughter
“In this slim, affectionate memoir, Taylor perfectly captures the essence of Roth’s charmingly enigmatic humor and complex behavior…A touching and entertaining portrait that is sure to delight his many readers.”
— Kirkus Reviews
The only way to write about a friendship persuasively, I think, is to convey it as something by-the-way, a joyous accident. That’s what Benjamin Taylor gives us here – with a poet’s selectivity and a jazz pianist’s touch. I knew Philip but slightly. Now I know him fully, and forever.
— Roger Rosenblatt
“A poignant and frequently poetic tribute to a friendship abundant with laughter, erudition, generosity, devotion, and grace.”
– Lisa Halliday