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The last ordeal of Nathan Zuckerman, the indomitable literary adventurer of Roth's nine Zuckerman books, 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.
Exit Zuckerman: Talking with Philip Roth
When we talked with Philip Roth for the Amazon Wire podcast, we asked him about his long relationship with his fictional surrogate, Nathan Zuckerman, his decision to bring Zuckerman back (and say goodbye to him) in Exit Ghost, and the difficulties of aging for novelists, and we managed to touch on George Plimpton, Annie Dillard, Grace Paley, and The Tempest, along with nearly all of the nine Zuckerman books. You can listen to interview in the podcast above, or read the full transcript.
Zuckerman Returns to Manhattan: Philip Roth Reads from Exit Ghost
When Nathan Zuckerman returns to Manhattan from his self-imposed rural retreat for the first time in 11 years in Exit Ghost, what does he find? Along with his surprising and unsettling encounters with an aged and ill woman who had once been a young mystery to him, an aggressive biographer who won't take no for an answer, and an alluring young writer who tempts him back into the adventure of seduction, he is confronted with a city whose streets are filled with people behaving quite differently than a decade before. "For one who frequently went without talking to anyone for days at a time," he thinks. "I had to wonder what that had previously held them up had collapsed in people to make incessant talking into a telephone preferable to walking about under no one's surveillance, momentarily solitary, assimilating the street through one's animal senses and thinking the myriad thoughts that the activities of a city inspire." Listen to Philip Roth read an excerpt from Exit Ghost.
Looking Back on Zuckerman
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. (Oct.)
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Roth is always a good read. This was no exception. The book arrived quickly in good condition. Carried it on work commute. Let fiends borrow it, too.Published 5 months ago by GingerH
As others have noted (surprisingly few I must say) this book is absolutely nothing compared to almost any of Philip Roth's past output. Read morePublished 7 months ago by T. A. Smith
Haven't read a bad book by Roth, but this one seems to be more for his fans. Very well written and definitely has many great moments. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Wenn Schon
Roth's special gift in capturing a moment in reference to our time. His story telling technique is outstanding. His only sin is his overstating some of his positions. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Renate Halliday
Of the ten or so Roth novels I've read, this one ranks in the lower half. I'd only read it if you're a Roth fan or want to complete the Zuckerman series. Read morePublished on August 26, 2013 by Dodd V. Attisani
In "Exit Ghost" Philip Roth gives us an extraordinary look at not only at our old friend Nathan Zuckerman's struggle against the coming darkness, but of our own... Read more
Well writen. At times seems autobiograipic. Exit Ghost is a worthwhilehost read for everyone! I am sure you will agree.Published on January 28, 2013 by James M. Scott
Exit Ghost by Philip Roth was my introduction to the character of Nathan Zuckerman - a septuagenarian, renowned genius of the literary world, and as of the past decade a notorious... Read morePublished on January 21, 2013 by William D. Hastings