Simon Axler is one of America's leading classical stage actors, but his talent - his magic - has deserted him. All the spontaneity and unthinking impulsiveness that made him great has been replaced by a paralysing self-consciousness. Overwhelmed, Axler's wife promptly leaves him, and Axler checks into a psychiatric hospital. It is only when he begins an affair with Pegeen - formerly a lesbian of 17 years - that Axler's regeneration (and then his final catastrophe) can begin.
Philip Roth (1933-2018) won the Pulitzer Prize for American Pastoral in 1997. In 1998 he received the National Medal of Arts at the White House, and in 2002 the highest award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Gold Medal in Fiction, previously awarded to John Dos Passos, William Faulkner and Saul Bellow, among others. He twice won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He won the PEN/Faulkner Award three times. In 2005 The Plot Against America received the Society of American Historians' Prize for `the outstanding historical novel on an American theme for 2003-2004'. Roth received PEN's two most prestigious prizes: in 2006 the PEN/Nabokov Award `for a body of work . . . of enduring originality and consummate craftsmanship' and in 2007 the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, given to a writer whose `scale of achievement over a sustained career . . . places him or her in the highest rank of American literature'. In 2011 Roth won the International Man Booker Prize.