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Philip Roth's Rude Truth: The Art of Immaturity

5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691138435
ISBN-10: 0691138435
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Editorial Reviews


"The present title offers a sophisticated, original vision and is a fine addition to the excellent body of critical material available on this significant prolific novelist. . . . Highly recommended."--Choice

"Crisply written, well argued and persuasive. Reading it, one looks forward to reading Roth again, in Posnock's new light."--Chanan Tigay, Forward

"Ross Posnock's study may be the most intellectually complex as well as fiercely independent study of Roth's career to date. Filled with deft observations, [Posnock] offers authoritative readings of literature and society which have profound implications that exceed considerations of Roth, its ostensible solitary subject."--Ranen Omer-Sherman, Modernism/modernity

"A very learned and stimulating critique of Philip Roth's fiction.... Ross Posnock has written one of the three best books on Philip Roth--if not the best.... He treats Roth's work as it deserves to be regarded, especially since no one as yet has adequately traced its roots to the major traditions of American literature."--Jay L. Halio, Shofar

"In this complex and stimulating book, Ross Posnock . . . rethinks the career of American novelist Philip Roth. . . . Posnock places Roth within a cosmopolitan community of authors ranging from Melville to Salinger who have rejected the separation of mind and body in favor of an aesthetic that rejects the very idea of knowing oneself. . . . Posnock has written an excellent book of criticism, exploring not just Roth, but also literature that emerged mid-century with roots in a long tradition of American and European art."--Peter Terry, ForeWord


Ross Posnock's meditation upon Philip Roth is the best literary criticism yet afforded to our foremost novelist since Faulkner. Roth emerges from this study as a major American novelist in a literary tradition that goes back to Emerson and Henry James. Posnock clearly defines the writer whose heartening motto is: 'We are here to be insulted.' One of Roth's favorite adages is Heine's: 'There is a God and his name is Aristophanes.'
(Harold Bloom, literary critic ) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (August 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691138435
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691138435
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,720,155 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAME on April 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Ross Posnock makes a new reading of the work of Philip Roth. He focuses on the idea of 'immaturity' and through it links Roth to literary traditions and writers to whom he is not normally connected. Perhaps most notably he connects Roth with the writers of the American Renaissance (1850-55) Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, Melville, Hawthorne the giants of the American Tradition. Posnock shows how Roth's refusal to accept the inhibiting restrictions of maturity free him to make an incredible imaginative effort, one which remarkably unlike that of so many American writers, does in fact have a 'second act' Posnock also links Roth with the world of Eastern European writers most notably Milan Kundera. Posnock finds Roth to be that rare American writer who has gone from strength to greater strength. For him the first rank of Roth's work consists in "Portnoy's Complaint" (1969) "The Counterlife" (1986) "Sabbath's Theatre " (1995) and "The Human Stain" ( 2000) I myself have a different sense of the Roth canon and believe that his most recent work "Everyman" is at a level only "Portnoy" can match.
Posnock does what a good literary critic should do - expands our sense of the richness of meaning of the work.
This is a welcome addition to the growing critical literature on the work of an American master.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a committed devotee of Roth's work, I've read a number of articles and critiques of his literature and its meaning, but none compare to the expansiveness, clarity, and insight that one can derive from Posnock's book. While most works on Roth tend to focus on categorizing him narrowly as a Jewish American author, Posnock's work sees him in a novel light - Roth is part of a tradition of authors on both sides of the Atlantic who write about the importance of immaturity, silliness, and flouting convention. It is this lens, perhaps even more than a particular Jewish/ethnic lens that, in my opinion, offers the most insight into Portnoy's Complaint, The Counterlife, The Human Stain, and his other great works. By taking into account his literary genealogy, one also learns a lot about Henry James, Raplh Waldo Emerson, and Milan Kundera.

Besides being impeccably researched and carefully (and not exaggeratedly) argued, Posnock has a talent for excellent, even beautiful, writing. This is the kind of style and caliber of writing that I would enjoy even if I had no interest in Roth or his canon. The work as a whole is outstanding and I highly recommend it for anyone interested in Roth's work or in a model of sterling scholarship and writing.
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Format: Paperback
This is the only study on Roth that centers on what Roth readers have found most entertaining in his work: his rudeness at the alter of bourgeois pieties. More striking, though, is Posnock's linking of Roth's rudeness to Emerson, a connection that is itself an instance of the audacity it is intended to clarify.
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