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The Ghost Writer Paperback – August 1, 1995

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Editorial Reviews Review

A middle-aged writer recalls his younger self. At 23, Nathan Zuckerman has had four stories published and a small, flattering Saturday Review up-and-coming-author profile (complete with a photo of him playing with his ex-girlfriend's cat), which he purports to scorn. As genuine and polite as he seems, Zuckerman has already hurt his family with his autobiographical art and ruined his relationship with adultery and honesty. Visiting his reclusive idol (famed for his "blend of sympathy and pitilessness") in the Berkshires, the writer watches himself watching himself and attempts to confront his work and life. Instead he finds himself turning reality into metafiction. A quote he happens upon from Henry James only complicates matters further: "We work in the dark--we do what we can--we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art." Events, however, have their revenge, weaving more out of control than even he can anticipate or ask for. Philip Roth is the master of the uncomfortable, and his alter ego a connoisseur of self-involvement, self-loathing, and self-examination. ("Virtuous reader, if you think that after intercourse all animals are sad, try masturbating on the daybed in E. I. Lonoff's study and see how you feel when it's over.")

From Library Journal

Both these novels follow protagonist Nathan Zuckerman through different times in his life?Ghost Writer, dubbed a "glowing work of fiction" by LJ's reviewer (LJ 9/1/79), introduced the character in his youth, while 1981's Unbound offers him in his mid-30s. Roth's many fans will be happy to see these again.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Series: Vintage International
  • Paperback: 179 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage International ed edition (August 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679748989
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679748984
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #83,563 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

In the 1990s Philip Roth won America's four major literary awards in succession: the National Book Critics Circle Award for Patrimony (1991), the PEN/Faulkner Award for Operation Shylock (1993), the National Book Award for Sabbath's Theater (1995), and the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for American Pastoral (1997). He won the Ambassador Book Award of the English-Speaking Union for I Married a Communist (1998); in the same year he received the National Medal of Arts at the White House. Previously he won the National Book Critics Circle Award for The Counterlife (1986) and the National Book Award for his first book, Goodbye, Columbus (1959). In 2000 he published The Human Stain, concluding a trilogy that depicts the ideological ethos of postwar America. For The Human Stain Roth received his second PEN/Faulkner Award as well as Britain's W. H. Smith Award for the Best Book of the Year. In 2001 he received the highest award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Gold Medal in Fiction, given every six years "for the entire work of the recipient." In 2005 The Plot Against America received the Society of American Historians Award for "the outstanding historical novel on an American theme for 2003--2004." In 2007 Roth received the PEN/Faulkner Award for Everyman.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on August 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
Philip Roth, in this first of the Nathan Zuckerman novels, published in 1979, introduces Nathan as a twenty-three-year-old graduate of the University of Chicago who has had four short stories published and is looking for a mentor. Having contacted famed writer E. I. Lonoff, a writer living in rural New England with his wife of 35 years, he has accepted Lonoff's invitation to visit, but a snowstorm arises and Zuckerman finds himself spending the night with Lonoff and his wife. His observations about the life of Lonoff leads him to imagine many stories--about Lonoff's past, his possible relationship with a young former student, and about his life in the countryside. In addition, Zuckerman also reminisces about his own past, his relationships with his family, his feelings toward his own writing, his possible obligations to Jewish history, and the imagined past of Amy, Lonoff's former student, who resembles Anne Frank.

Though Zuckerman is full of hopes for a broader relationship with Lonoff, he soon discovers that his idol is a petulant and insecure man who has used and, in some cases, emotionally abused, those around him, all in the name of "art." Spending a sleepless winter night on the couch in Lonoff's den, Zuckerman investigates Lonoff's library, especially Lonoff's collection of the writings of Henry James, whom Lonoff admires so much, tries to write a letter to his estranged father (who is appalled by one of Nathan's recent short stories, which, he feels, feeds anti-Semitic prejudice), and ponders the relationship between genuine creativity, editing and revision, and the possible responsibilities of a writer beyond his own creative impulse.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By B. Case TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 19, 2007
Format: Paperback
I recently read "Exit Ghost," the last book in the Zuckerman series, and vowed I would read the first book in the series, "Ghost Writer," because I wanted to uncover whatever parallels I might find that would further my enjoyment and understanding. Let me say from the beginning that I thoroughly enjoyed both books. There is hardly a page of Roth's writing that doesn't amuse, fascinate, enthrall, or generally cause my brain to flare up with pure intellectual delight. Roth is surely a national literary treasure.

"Ghost Writer" is a novella about authors, the process of creative writing, and the nature, meaning, and techniques of fiction itself.

The overall plot of "Ghost Writer" is simple, but it masks layers of thematic complexity. The story concerns accomplished, successful 43-year-old author Nathan Zuckerman, reminiscing about his first meeting as a 23-year-old aspiring author with his idol, the famous, but reclusive writer E. I. (Manny) Lonoff. Zuckerman manages to get an invitation to the author's home in the Berkshire countryside. There he meets Lonoff, his wife, Hope, and Lonoff's beautiful young assistant, Amy Bellette. It is obvious from the conversations he hears directly, as well as those he overhears in private, that bald, hefty 60-plus-year-old Lonoff appears to be having some type of strange love affair with his beautiful college-age assistant, and that his wife is well aware of this fact. Zuckerman is strongly attracted to Amy and has wild fantasies about her past as a Jewish war orphan, as well as about her current relationship with Lonoff. During his visit, a winter storm arrives making travel difficult.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 20, 1999
Format: Paperback
In "The Ghost Writer", Philip Roth explores the tension between literature and life through the eyes of Nathan Zuckerman, who looks back to his younger days when as a budding writer, he meets for the first time his literary idol, E.I.Lonoff, his wife Hope and a young girl (Amy Bellette) who appears to be Lonoff's house guest. With great skill and imagination, Roth draws us into the intriguing debate on the responsibility of an artist towards society. Is Nathan morally on safe grounds to publish a novel about the life of his family when he knows that the dirty linen he exposes will cause offence to his relatives and his community ? Is Lonoff (a literary giant though he is) deserving of Nathan's worship when he is willing to spend his entire life "writing and rearranging sentences" but shamelessly neglects his long suffering wife and children ? Are the artist's rights in the name of truth and art ultimately a selfish privilege which asks that we blind ourselves to the larger costs, whatever they are ? These are difficult issues concerning the "madness of art" which Roth handles subtly and without seeming pedentic or preachy. The last section of the novel is an absolute gem. It develops unexpectedly into a teaser which sets up a head-on collision between art and life and leaves the reader wondering about the true identity of Amy. Roth has written a highly intelligent novel that will surely stand the test of time. Highly recommended.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Romantic Anna on May 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
A work of art. I devoured this little book that speaks straight to the matter of what it means to be a writer, a person with the creative spark. All the characters are interesting and also mysterious. You only touch at their souls.

I was indescribably moved by the Anne Frank section, which is imaginative and sad because she is a figure that speaks to the Jewish people but also to the part in each of us that can feel anger and compassion. Nathan's act of reimagining the Amy character IS bizarre but. . .brilliant.

This is only my second Roth book and I have so many questions. Very inspiring and lovely writing.
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