Synopses & Reviews
Like Rip Van Winkle returning to his hometown to find that all has changed, Nathan Zuckerman comes back to New York, the city he left eleven years before. Alone on his New England mountain, Zuckerman has been nothing but a writer: no voices, no media, no terrorist threats, no women, no news, no tasks other than his work and the enduring of old age.
Walking the streets like a revenant, he quickly makes three connections that explode his carefully protected solitude. One is with a young couple with whom, in a rash moment, he offers to swap homes. They will flee post-9/11 Manhattan for his country refuge, and he will return to city life. But from the time he meets them, Zuckerman also wants to swap his solitude for the erotic challenge of the young woman, Jamie, whose allure draws him back to all that he thought he had left behind: intimacy, the vibrant play of heart and body.
The second connection is with a figure from Zuckerman's youth, Amy Bellette, companion and muse to Zuckerman's first literary hero, E. I. Lonoff. The once irresistible Amy is now an old woman depleted by illness, guarding the memory of that grandly austere American writer who showed Nathan the solitary path to a writing vocation.
The third connection is with Lonoff's would-be biographer, a young literary hound who will do and say nearly anything to get to Lonoff's "great secret." Suddenly involved, as he never wanted or intended to be involved again, with love, mourning, desire, and animosity, Zuckerman plays out an interior drama of vivid and poignant possibilities.
Haunted by Roth's earlier work The Ghost Writer, Exit Ghost is an amazing leap into yet another phase in this great writer's insatiable commitment to fiction.
"Philip Roth's 28th book is, it seems, the final novel in the Zuckerman series, which began in 1979 with The Ghostwriter. A 71-year-old Nathan Zuckerman returns to New York after more than a decade in rural New England, ostensibly to see a doctor about a prostate condition that has left him incontinent and probably impotent. But Zuckerman being Zuckerman and Roth being Roth, the plot is much more complicated than it at first appears. Within a few days of arriving in New York, Zuckerman accidentally encounters Amy Bellette, the woman who was once the muse/wife of his beloved idol, writer S.I. Lonoff; he also meets a young novelist and promptly begins fantasizing about the writer's young and beautiful wife. There's also a subplot about a would-be Lonoff biographer, who enrages Zuckerman with his brashness and ambition, two qualities a faithful Roth reader can't help ascribing to the young, sycophantic Zuckerman himself. As usual, Roth's voice is wise and full of rueful wit, but the plot is contrived (the accidental meeting with Amy, for example, is particularly unbelievable) and the tone hovers dangerously close to pathetic. In the Rothian pantheon, this one lives closer to The Dying Animal than Everyman. Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A]gonizingly real yet gorgeously rendered....This novel of renewal inevitably becomes a tale of acceptance of one's irreversible descent to oblivion." Booklist (Starred Review)
"While not one of Roth's strongest works, this novel has all the elements: unreliable narrators, authorial games, meditations on the use and abuse of literature, and a firm grounding in the reality of post-9/11 New York. Recommended." Library Journal
"Exit Ghost is among other things a poison pen letter to New York City, to the editors, journalists and commentators who make it hum....I do not know where I would be without Zuckerman. I often disagree with him. I ache for his failings, but in the end I love him, even if he does not love me." Chicago Tribune
"As the umpteenth recycling of Roth's obsessions, Exit Ghost will doubtless draw Roth admirers to explore and celebrate it....Less enamored readers may conclude that to the extent Roth possesses an imagination, it's an insufferable one." Philadelphia Inquirer
"As with Exit Ghost
's immediate predecessor, Everyman
, one gets an ever-stronger impression that Roth has degraded the Eros-Thanatos dialectic of some of his earlier work and is now using his fiction, first to kill off certain characters and to shoot the wounded, and second to give himself something to masturbate about....Exit Ghost
is billed as the last of the Zuckerman adventures, but it's as if Roth stops writing the book rather than finishes it." Christopher Hitchens, The Atlantic Monthly
(read the entire Atlantic Monthly review
Nathan Zuckerman, the indomitable literary adventurer of Roth's nine Zuckerman books, finds himself involved as he never wanted or intended to be with love, mourning, desire, and animosity.
About the Author
In 1997 Philip Roth won the Pulitzer Prize for American Pastoral. In 1998 he received the National Medal of Arts at the White House, and in 2002 received 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 has twice won the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Roth's recent work includes The Human Stain (2000) and The Dying Animal (2001). In 2005 The Plot Against America won the Society of American Historians' award for "the outstanding historical novel on an American theme in 2003â€“2004." Also in 2005, Philip Roth became the third living American writer to have his work published in a comprehensive, definitive edition by the Library of America. The last of the eight volumes is scheduled for publication in 2013.