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Exit Ghost Hardcover – October 1, 2007

3.9 out of 5 stars 76 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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

The Ghost Writer: Introduces Nathan Zuckerman in the 1950s, a budding writer who spends a night in the secluded New England farmhouse of his idol, E. I. Lonoff, and meets a haunting young woman whom he imagines could be the paradigmatic victim of Nazi persecution.
Zuckerman Unbound: Zuckerman, with newfound fame as a bestselling author, ventures onto the streets of Manhattan in the final year of the turbulent '60s, where he is assumed by fans and enemies to be his own fictional satyr, Gilbert Carnovsky ("Hey, you do all that stuff in that book?").
The Anatomy Lesson: At 40, Zuckerman comes down with a mysterious affliction--pure pain, beginning in his neck and shoulders, invading his torso, and taking possession of his spirit. Zuckerman is unable to write a line, but the novel provides some of the funniest and fiercest scenes in all of Roth's fiction.
The Prague Orgy: In quest of the unpublished manuscript of a martyred Yiddish writer, Zuckerman travels to Soviet-occupied Prague in the mid-1970s, where he discovers, among the oppressed writers with whom he quickly becomes embroiled, an appealingly perverse kind of heroism.
Zuckerman Bound: The latest in the Library of America's collected Roth works brings together his first Zuckerman trilogy, The Ghost Writer, Zuckerman Unbound, and The Anatomy Lesson, along with the epilogue, The Prague Orgy.
The Counterlife: From New Jersey to England to the West Bank, the characters in The Counterlife, illuminated by the skeptical, enveloping intelligence of Nathan Zuckerman, are tempted unceasingly by the prospect of an alternative existence that can reverse their fate.
American Pastoral: Swede Levov, legendary high-school athlete and boyhood idol of Nathan Zuckerman, is wrenched overnight out of the American pastoral and into the indigenous American berserk when his teenage daughter proves capable of an outlandishly savage act of political terrorism.
I Married a Communist: The rise and fall of Ira Ringold, a big American roughneck who becomes a big-time 1940s radio star, takes the young Zuckerman under his wing, and is destroyed, as both a performer and a man, in the McCarthy witchhunt of the 1950s.
The Human Stain: Coleman Silk, an aging classics professor forced to retire when his colleagues decree that he is a racist, has a secret, kept for 50 years from all around him, including his friend Nathan Zuckerman, who sets out to understand how this ingeniously contrived life came unraveled.

From Publishers Weekly

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (October 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618915478
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618915477
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,335,199 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jon Linden VINE VOICE on October 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In his latest creation, Roth shows that even a 71 year old incontinent and impotent Zuckerman (Roth in disguise) can still produce amazingly poignant and truly important literature. The book centers around the attempt to regain continence through a new procedure, while at the same time showing that regardless of the state of inoperative reproductive equipment, thoughts of sexuality still meander frequently and aggressively through the male mind.

At the same time, Roth indicates his feeling that we have reached the "End of the age of literature." During his stay in New York City to undergo his procedure, he becomes involved with a reporter who is planning to write a biography about a great, but all but forgotten master American short story author. It seems that the author may or may not have had a deep dark secret that he wanted buried forever. The biographer finds out what he believes is that secret, and plans to reveal it to the world.

Through the book, Roth becomes involved in great sexual fantasy with a beautiful lady half his age. Since he is unable to actually act on those thoughts, due to his physical malady, he fantasizes and creates imaginary dialogue around that particular lady and the wonders of her sensuality and sexuality.

Once again, Roth writes a wondrously autobiographical book which the reader can virtually insert himself, and feel as though he has become Roth in the text. This ability is Roth's special gift. He is able to capture his experiences and feelings and then turn them into words in a manner that is virtually universal. This ability has always characterized his writing throughout his entire career. This book is recommended for all readers, especially those over the age of 50.
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Format: Hardcover
One can only hope that EXIT GHOST is not the final page in the multiple books on the life of Nathan Zuckerman (the thinly disguised author Philip Roth). Though the principal character of nine books since 1979 is now aged 71, leading a reclusive life after the ravages of prostatic carcinoma treatments have left him incontinent and impotent, there is more than a little life in the master storyteller. Philip Roth continues his eloquent writing style in this latest book and still struggles with the enigmas of sexual obsession, distaste for current politics in this country, and the Don Quixote stance against aging and dying. And in doing so he has created a novel with fascinating characters, satisfying plot, propulsive reading style, and much food for thought!

Nathan Zuckerman, in this book, has decided to take a chance on a surgical procedure the will cure or at least improve his embarrassing urinary incontinence, one of the many reasons he has moved from New York City to a rural New England hideaway to write in solitude. But upon arrival in New York he meets a beautiful couple (Jamie and Billy), both writers, who are suffering from the after-effects of 911 and upon encountering their literary hero Zuckerman, coerce him into trading houses: Zuckerman will remain in their New York space and the couple will escape to his New England sanctuary. But other factors arise: Zuckerman meets his old friend Amy Bellette, once the lover of Zuckerman's hero writer E.I.
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Format: Hardcover
For a glaring example of one of the main themes of "Exit Ghost" one need only read the recent Vanity Fair article about Arthur Miller's institutionalization of his Down Syndrome son. It was an article guaranteed to create a scandal; it was "cultural journalism" - tabloid gossip masquerading as literary investigation. It called into question the character of a great writer (as opposed, sadly, to the great writer's characters, who are forgotten like yesterday's garbage in the wake of a titillating gossip-fest). And, sadly, I, too, played right along. I'm addicted to Vanity Fair. It's fun to peek into the lives of the so-called "beautiful (i.e. monied) people." It's satisfying to see them picked apart for their foibles and follies, while I, an unsuccessful (meaning unpublished) writer gets a little revenge from their ill luck. "Exit Ghost" has made me feel somewhat ashamed for this character defect, which seems to be infecting multitudes in our current world. Mea culpa, Phil. Now, I'm not going to take it back - I still feel the sting of "Exit Ghost's" tongue-lashing. However - one might say that AT LEAST these kinds of stories keep the writers in the forefront of the vast, untutored American public enough that, say, someone might want to go back and read their stuff. I know it sounds like I'm hedging my bets here, but I'd be willing to say that, for instance, Arthur Miller probably picked up some fans along the
way. And another thing: at first, I condemned Miller for his cowardice. I was very angry that a literary idol of mine had fallen of his pedestal. And then - I realized that the finger of judgment was actually pointing right back to myself.
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