Philip Roth Clears Up His 'Crack-Up'

In a letter to The Atlantic, novelist Philip Roth explains what happened when he had an adverse reaction to sleeping pills he was prescribed in the late 1980s. 

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The Atlantic's Joseph O'Neill penned an essay about the novelist Philip Roth for the April issue (please go on and read the whole thing), and included this sentence: "As for the personal, Roth, though evidently blessed with decent health, has not enjoyed immunity from life’s distressing hazards, which in his case include a 'crack-up' in his mid-50s and two marriages that came to grief."

Crack-up, nervous breakdown -- whatever you call it -- the episode has often been referred to in the reclusive writer's biography, as well as in interviews, and critics believe that Roth referenced the incident in his novel Operation Shylock.  Roth, however, took issue with the use of the word "crack-up" and explained that he had an adverse reaction to a sleeping aid, Halcion, which he had been prescribed in the late 1980s. He calls it an "unfortunate biographical error" to describe this episode as any sort of mental breakdown. Roth's letter to The Atlantic appears in the magazine's June issue, or you can read it in full below:

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