Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Exit Ghost by Philip Roth

For some reason, I avoided Roth early on -- it might have had something to do with the fact that I hated the film, "Goodbye, Columbus." I was less discriminating between books and films than I am now. When Everyman came to me, I loved it. This is his latest, and I do believe I am becoming a Roth fan.

This novel is the last in a series known as the “Zuckerman Books.” According to the official Philip Roth website, Nathan Zuckerman represents Roth’s “alter brain.” Roth takes the reader on a serious trip through the mind of a writer as he deals with aging and its attendant physical ailments. He reviews his life and loves and experiences. As the dust jacket tells us, Zuckerman, a modern day Rip van Winkle, returns to New York City after an eleven-year self exile in rural western Massachusetts. Three seemingly random encounters reconnect Zuckerman to his past in ways that cause him to make rash decisions.

The novel is set in the days before and after the 2004 election stolen by Shrub 43 and Karl Rove. Roth, an unabashed liberal, tells us exactly what he thinks of that election:

"That a right-wing administration motivated by insatiable greed and sustained by murderous lies and led by a privileged dope should answer America’s infantile idea of morality – how do we live with something so grotesque? How do you manage to insulate your self from stupidity so bottomless?" (97)

How true, and how did we make it this close to the end of this abominable administration?

This is my kind of novel: complex characters with complex psyches and complex motivations mull over the meaning of life, literature, writing, reading. They delve into complex relationships and sometimes come up confused. But, in the end, Nathan figures out what is real and what is imaginary, what is possible, and what is only a dream.

I will go back and read all the other Zuckerman novels. Maybe even Good bye Columbus. 5 stars

-- Chiron, 6/25/08

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