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This posthumous work by the much lauded Roth (Call It Sleep), assembled by former New Yorker editor Davidson from nearly 2,000 manuscript pages, continues the story of Roth's alter ego, Ira Stigman. Ira, a Jewish writer, has already published his first novel to much acclaim and is struggling with the second (at Yaddo, no less) when he falls for M, a fetching Midwestern pianist, despite having Edith, his domineering mentor and lover, waiting back in New York City. Ira's search for artistic inspiration soon requires a change of scenery, so he and his latest muse, a fervent Communist, travel to L.A., but things get off to a rocky start: Ira's one contact is no longer in town and work is hard to come by, but to turn to Edith or M for help would compromise Ira's effort to stand on his own. The novel comes close to achieving its aspirations of being a sweeping portrait of 1930s America and the story of a writer struggling with art, love, and finding his own voice, but despite a strong start, the narrative loses resonance as it meanders toward an abrupt and unsatisfying conclusion. (June)
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*Starred Review* Roth made an astonishing comeback in 1994 with his first novel since Call It Sleep (1934), A Star Shines over Mt. Morris Park, which introduces New Yorker Ira Stigman, the high-strung son of Eastern European Jewish immigrants. Ira’s story quickly filled three subsequent novels to create the provoking and dramatic series Mercy of a Rude Stream. Now, 15 years after Roth’s death, we have the final book in the saga. America is in the grip of the Great Depression, and even though Ira has become a published novelist, his self-loathing goes unabated, due in part to his smothering relationship with Edith, his mentor, lover, and sugar mama. When Ira falls in love with a young composer, he decides the only way to end things with Edith is to journey cross-country with Bill, a Communist working-class hero he hopes to write about. So begins a gritty, surreal, and darkly comic on-the-road adventure through a tattered America of decrepit flophouses, grimy bars, and boxcars full of hobos. As Ira discovers Bill’s true nature and confronts bigots, crooks, and madmen, he searches for the key to transmuting raw experience into art, infatuation into sustaining love. A passionate, life-embracing conclusion to Roth’s bold and cathartic magnum opus. --Donna SeamanSee all Editorial Reviews