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1. Nemesis
2. Indignation (Vintage International)
3. American Pastoral
4. Everyman
5. Portnoy's Complaint
6. The Humbling (Vintage International)
7. Goodbye, Columbus : And Five Short
8. The Plot Against America
9. The Human Stain: A Novel American
10. The Ghost Writer
11. Patrimony : A True Story
12. The Facts: A Novelist's Autobiography
13. Philip Roth: Novels 1993-1995:
14. Philip Roth: Novels 1973-1977,
15. I Married a Communist
16. Zuckerman Bound: A Trilogy and
17. The Dying Animal (Movie Tie-In
18. The Counterlife
19. Philip Roth: Novels and Stories
20. My Life As a Man (Vintage International)

1. Nemesis
by Philip Roth
Hardcover: 304 Pages (2010-10-05)
list price: US$26.00 -- used & new: US$10.98
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0547318359
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description

In the "stifling heat of equatorial Newark," a terrifying epidemic is raging, threatening the children of the New Jersey city with maiming, paralysis, lifelong disability, and even death. This is the startling theme of Philip Roth’s wrenching new book: a wartime polio epidemic in the summer of 1944 and the effect it has on a closely knit, family-oriented Newark community and its children.

At the center of Nemesis is a vigorous, dutiful twenty-three-year-old playground director, Bucky Cantor, a javelin thrower and weightlifter, who is devoted to his charges and disappointed with himself because his weak eyes have excluded him from serving in the war alongside his contemporaries. Focusing on Cantor’s dilemmas as polio begins to ravage his playground—and on the everyday realities he faces—Roth leads us through every inch of emotion such a pestilence can breed: the fear, the panic, the anger, the bewilderment, the suffering, and the pain.

Moving between the smoldering, malodorous streets of besieged Newark and Indian Hill, a pristine children’s summer camp high in the Poconos—whose "mountain air was purified of all contaminants"—Roth depicts a decent, energetic man with the best intentions struggling in his own private war against the epidemic. Roth is tenderly exact at every point about Cantor’s passage into personal disaster, and no less exact about the condition of childhood.

Through this story runs the dark questions that haunt all four of Roth’s late short novels, Everyman, Indignation, The Humbling, and now Nemesis: What kind of accidental choices fatally shape a life? How does the individual withstand the onslaught of circumstance?

... Read more

Customer Reviews (19)

5-0 out of 5 stars Terrific novel of a time and place
I very much enjoyed Roth's latest book, an exploration of the confluence of World War 11 and a raging polio epidemic in 1944 New Jersey.Central to the theme is how guilt, deserved or undeserved, can forever alter our choices and limit our possibilities. Well worth reading.

5-0 out of 5 stars Battles on the homefront
It is Newark, 1944. The war still rages in Europe and a young adult athlete, rejected by the U.S. military for combat due to poor eyesight, is thrust into service as a playground director while another battle rages around him...polio. FDR, the nation's most famous polio survivor, is in the last months of his presidency and he looms large in Philip Roth's wonderful new novel, "Nemesis". To paraphrase FDR's first inaugural address, the thing residents of Newark have most to fear is "fear itself".

Roth guides us through that summer embedding us in the eyes of "Mr. Cantor", the protagonist, who suddenly decamps Newark to take a new job at a summer camp in the Poconos. While Mr. Cantor wishes in part to be with his fiancée, (who is also at the camp) the reasons for his departure from Newark are less clear...especially to Mr. Cantor. As the story continues, his self-view of being a Typhoid Mary in spreading polio becomes an increasing concern to everyone, including Mr. Cantor.

The advent of a second protagonist, skillfully added by the author, does nothing to sort out the psychological mess, but serves to increase Mr. Cantor's skewed outlook on the world and on himself. As time goes on, does the reader find more empathy with Mr. Cantor...or less? That's the mark of a good writer.

"Nemesis" is easily read in an afternoon and begs one to keep going to the end. The final chapter, "Reunion", is as good an epilogue as one will find. This book is a gem and I highly recommend it.

5-0 out of 5 stars Really love this book
This is the first Roth's novel I ever read, so I can't compare it with the earlier ones, but now I'd like to have all of his books. The plot is too sad though.

The print quality is just perfect.

5-0 out of 5 stars Edgar Allan Poe?
Reading "Nemesis," I found the polio infestation of the idyllic summer camp, carried by our unsuspecting protagonist, who is seeking to flee the polio epidemic in the city, strongly reminiscent of Poe's "Masque of the Red Death."


4-0 out of 5 stars Philip Roth's Nemesis: The Impact of Polio Before the Vaccine
SPOILER ALERT: Plot points are revealed in pursuit of polio enlightenment.

The villain in this novel is polio, the disease that transported my Dad from a congested Brooklyn neighborhood to his first exposure to a working farm and the disease that would return fifty years later to ultimately claim him.

Roth's novel, set in Newark, NJ in the summer of 1944, looks at pre-vaccine polio through the eyes of protagonist Bucky Cantor, a school gym teacher, mentor and coach, kept from service in World War II by his poor eyesight.Bucky's secret humiliation at being unfit for military service and his enormous empathy and courage in the face of the terror and injustice of polio, frame the novel's theme.

As Bucky embraces the opportunity to replace a drafted camp waterfront director at a camp in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains, I can almost feel my Dad's epiphany as he embraced the rustic environment of Haverstraw, NY where he was sent for rehabilitation. My Dad often said that polio gave him the opportunity to learn that he wanted to be a farmer. I ran free in the woods of Guilford, CT because my Dad embraced the natural world.

Roth writes:
"He [Bucky] had always lived in a city flat . . . and had never before felt on his skin that commingling of warmth and coolness that is a Julymountain morning . . . There was something so enlivening about spending one's workday in this unbounded space . . . something so thrilling about going to sleep beneath a blitzkrieg of thunder and lightning and awakening to what looked like the first morning ever that the sun had shown down on human activity."

But, as a writer, I knew Roth was setting me, the reader, up for a crushing blow. Roth skillfully weaves words into a tapestry of emotion:
". . . the two clung to each other with their unparalyzed arms, swaying together to the music on their unparalyzed legs, pressing together their unparalyzed trunks . . ."

Although I anticipate that our hero will battle polio, I'm still rooting for Bucky.

Roth is like a feline hunter, playing with its prey, backing off, pouncing again. He keeps the tension alive as Bucky learns of the battlefield death of his buddy Jake amid the dazzling description of indigenous skills revived by author Ernest Thompson Seton, (later founder of Boy Scouts), central to this camp's infrastructure.

My heart breaks for Bucky, as the powerless witness to a world ravaged by disease and war. When Donald, a camp counselor and promising diver mentored by Bucky, suddenly becomes ill, I have to set the book down. I suspected this, because my Dad had gone swimming in Coney Island and could not get out of bed the next morning.

But in Roth's hands, Donald, who gets chills the first night, returns to dive the second night. Roth weaves one slightly foreshadowing hint of possible trouble in one imperfect dive, but that could also be interpreted as Donald's learning curve. Foreshadowing, done well, is seamless.

Since I began reading NEMESIS, I've watched closely for telltale hints of polio to come. Roth's description of healthy limbs, promising athletes, and innovative thinkers is subtle, but I know what's coming. My paternal grandmother believed that celebrating achievement and success tempted a god demanding humility. Or maybe growing up in a world of Polish/Russian pogroms enhanced her vigilance.

I'm reading NEMESIS with her heightened sense of vigilance, which I'm sure borders on paranoia. Bucky's guilt over leaving Newark for the Poconos and his devastation by Donald's polio attack has Bucky convinced he's a polio carrier. I feel Bucky's paranoia and although I know that the polio vaccine will be available in the future, I'm still transported back to the 1940's when polio refused to reveal a pattern to its war-like devastation. Why did polio kill some people, maim others and leave others alone? In 2010 we still do not know.

As the story flashes forward, Bucky, having incubated the virus, possibly for weeks, finally succumbs to polio. Roth describes the Sister Kenny treatment that my Dad also had. I'm convinced Sister Kenny is the reason so many people regained movement of their paralyzed limbs.

Polio's cruelty lies in its unpredictability. Bucky, more severely stricken than my Dad, does regain most of his mobility, but I'm left with the impression that the healthier the body, the more viciously polio attacks.

The worst shock in Roth's "strand the protagonist up a tree and then throw rocks at him" approach is that Bucky loses more than one arm and one leg to polio. He loses his definition of himself. I was angry at Roth for that until one of Bucky's former students, also a polio survivor, explains that Bucky was an adult, with a teaching career and had largely defined himself by his athletic prowess. Bucky does not seem to realize the mental skill he'd developed to be able to succeed athletically.

Once Bucky's mind latches on to the idea that he was a "polio carrier and disease spreader" - is that even possible? - polio claims him mentally as well as physically.

Perhaps because my Dad was only 15-years-old, still in High School, his adult life not yet begun, polio impacted his life path, but never his choices. Unless Dad was wearing swim trunks, you'd never look at him at think he was physically deformed.

I'm trying hard to maintain my respect for Roth's deft storytelling, while dealing with my anger at Bucky for losing to polio. How dare polio win out over love? But we are all different and Roth did what I, as a reader, wanted him to do: deepen my perspective on an aspect of my Dad's life that he rarely spoke about at length.

I'm personally invested in the theme and angry about the final plot twist, but NEMESIS is one of those books I will read again.
... Read more

2. Indignation (Vintage International)
by Philip Roth
Paperback: 256 Pages (2009-10-06)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$5.35
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0307388913
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

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In 1951, the second year of the Korean War, a studious, law-abiding, and intense youngster from Newark, New Jersey, Marcus Messner, begins his sophomore year on the pastoral, conservative campus of Ohio's Winesburg College.And why is he there and not at a local college in Newark where he originally enrolled?Because his father, the sturdy, hardworking neighborhood butcher, seems to have gone mad–mad with fear and apprehension of the dangers of adult life, the dangers of the world, the dangers he sees in every corner for his beloved boy.Far from Newark, Marcus has to find his way amid the customs and constrictions of another American world.

Indignation, Philip Roth's twenty-ninth book, is a startling departure from the haunted narratives of old age and experience in Roth’s recent books and a powerful exploration of a remarkable moment in American history.Amazon.com Review
Amazon Best of the Month, September 2008: Enter once again into the echo chamber of Philip Roth's memory and imagination. In the second year of the Korean War, a butcher's son--a straight-A student wound tight with aspiration--flees Newark and his father's increasingly unhinged fears for his safety. Heading midwest, he finds a strange collegiate land of fraternities, football heroes, V-neck pullover sweaters and white buckskin shoes, panty raids, and mandatory chapel services, and, most startlingly, a young woman with desires of her own. Like another fiction grandmaster of his generation, Alice Munro, Roth seems able to spin infinite surprising tales from a few familiar building blocks, and in Indignation, his 25th novel, he has constructed a taut, haunting (and, as always, funny) story that ranks among his best. Reading at times like a buttoned-down Portnoy's Complaint (if it's possible to imagine such a thing), Indignation records a series of small explosions against '50s propriety and the dire consequences they lead to, capturing the misery of desire amid repression, along with the greater terror of being trapped in endless, relentless memory. --Tom Nissley ... Read more

Customer Reviews (87)

3-0 out of 5 stars it's ok but...
I must start by disclosing this is my first Roth novel. Other than seeing the high praise and awards for his earlier works I went into this book without any preconceived notions about the author.I kind of liked this book and it was an easy read but I got the book from the library and didn't have to pay to read it. Had I paid the $25 cover for this slight(230 pages and a small size page)book I would feel cheated. Compared to other things I've read recently, Justin Cronin's "Henry and June" and "The Summer Guest" or Pete Dexter's "Spooner" the characters were much more one dimensional and so way less interesting or sympathetic. I was somewhat suprised that a pulitizer prize writer's prose would not be more captivating. Although I was at times able to identify with the lead character by remembering myself at that age, overall I could not really recommend this book. To use a video analogy it was more like a TV movie than a real motion picture. I'm glad it was short- it felt good to be done with and move on to something that will be, hopefully, more satisfying.

4-0 out of 5 stars LIfe in the 1950s--More than what appears at the surface
As a child growing up in the area around Newark, NJ in the 1950s, I related to Marcus, the main character. On the surface, his home was peaceful and loving, but just below the surface, the world was in a turmoil about which his parents never spoke. Marcus leaves the familiarity and comfort of home and goes away to college in middle America where he meets people he never would have met in his former sheltered life in the Weequahic section of Newark. But, the journey takes him to the dark places in society that were never spoken of in those days. He encounters prejudice, antisemitism, homosexuality, mental illness and the idea that one can question authority. And in the background is the raging war taking place in Korea with the ongoing threat that if one didn't behave in school, they would meet their end at the hands of the North Koreans. This is a coming of age story, as much about Marcus and his fellow students as it is about America beginning to wake up to the changes that were inevitably coming as the false security of the 1950s were replaced by the social and political upheaval of the 1960s. This is an easy read, and as a fan of most of Roth's work, it doesn't stand up to the character development or plot lines of his two best works, The Plot Against America and American Pastoral, but it is a good snapshot of a part of American life that followed World War II.

2-0 out of 5 stars Shocking but insubstantial
Philip Roth's Indignation seems designed purely to shock. It intrigues at first, but there's not enough substance here for a compelling, satisfying story.

5-0 out of 5 stars The kosher butcher's son
All Marcus Messner wanted was to devote all his time to his studies and graduate valedictorian from Winesburg College in Ohio.Marcus did not want to pledge a fraternity (although the fraternity leaders on campus would not let him alone) nor try out for the Winesburg baseball team.

Originally attending a small college in Newark, New Jersey, Marcus, a very intelligent and very intense young man, transferred to this small midwestcollege.Marcus did not fit in nor care to fit in with the other students.He just needed to escape from his father, a local kosher butcher, who was becoming increasingly paranoid about Marcus being injured or worse yet, getting killed in the Korean War.Two of Mr. Messner's nephews died in World War II which only increased Mr. Messner's neurotic over-protection of his only son.Marcus had to escape from his father or go crazy.

At Winesburg Marcus has to deal with a selfish roommate who played classical records late into the night so that Marcus found it difficult to sleep or study, a college dean who constantly hounded Marcus over trivial matters like his college social life and a beautiful seemingly sophisticated co-ed, Olivia, whom Marcus dated and who has suicidal tendancies.She had previously slashed one of her wrists.

_Indignation_ is a wonderful book, so funny yet so sad.In the end Marcus, decidedly anti-religion, gets into trouble over his refusal to attend mandatory chapel services.The question now is will Marcus be kicked out of Winesburg College and be forceably drafted to serve in the much dreaded Korean War?

This is one of my favorite Philip Roth books, written in Roth's famous Jewish, Woody Allen-ish, _Portnoy's Complaint_ style for which Philip Roth is so deservedly known.If I were able to give _Indignation_ 10 stars, I certainly would.

4-0 out of 5 stars a fine novella
This book will not disappoint fans of Roth, of which I am one.Reading the book is like returning to a favorite good restaurant--the chef has a new item on the menu, but prepared in his reliable way. I very much enjoy Roth's portrayal of life in the American ghetto. I saw the common sense and richness of tribal living, surprisingly not unlike that I knew from growing up in a analogous hothouse in the rural Irish midwest.Roth moves his narrator from Newark to the midwest (a midwest that existed to be sure, but not the only midwest), and the narrative strengthens further.The finale is remarkable.Recommended. ... Read more

3. American Pastoral
by Philip Roth
Paperback: 432 Pages (1998-02-03)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$6.75
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375701427
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
As the American century draws to an uneasy close, Philip Roth gives us a novel of unqualified greatness that is an elegy for all our century's promises of prosperity, civic order,and domestic bliss. Roth's protagonist is Swede Levov, a legendary athlete at his Newark high school, who grows up in the booming postwar years to marry a former Miss New Jersey, inherit his father's glove factory, and move into a stone house in the idyllic hamlet of Old Rimrock. And then one day in 1968, Swede's beautiful American luck deserts him.

For Swede's adored daughter, Merry, has grown from a loving, quick-witted girl into a sullen, fanatical teenager—a teenager capable of an outlandishly savage act of political terrorism. And overnight Swede is wrenched out of the longer-for American pastoral and into the indigenous American berserk. Compulsively readable, propelled by sorrow, rage, and a deep compassion for its characters, this is Roth's masterpiece.Amazon.com Review
Philip Roth's 22nd book takes a life-long view of the Americanexperience in this thoughtful investigation of the century's mostdivisive and explosive of decades, the '60s. Returning again to thevoice of his literary alter ego Nathan Zuckerman, Roth is at the topof his form. His prose is carefully controlled yet always fresh andintellectually subtle as he reconstructs the halcyon days, circa WorldWar II, of Seymour "the Swede" Levov, a high school sportshero and all-around Great Guy who wants nothing more than to live intranquillity. But as the Swede grows older and America crazier,history sweeps his family inexorably into its grip: His own daughter,Merry, commits an unpardonable act of "protest" against theVietnam war that ultimately severs the Swede from any hope ofhappiness, family, or spiritual coherence. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (242)

5-0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Layered Novel with Rich Themes
"American Pastoral," the Pulitzer Prize winning 1997 novel by Philip Roth, is an elegy to Seymour "Swede" Levov -- a former high-school athlete, childhood idol of his classmates, and hero to his community. Roth uses his recurring narrator, author Nathan Zuckerman, to imagine the tragic destruction of The Swede's happy, conventional, American-dream of an upper class life through the social and political turmoil of the 1960s; it's the story of a sudden slip from the "longed-for American pastoral" into "the fury, the violence, and the desperation of the counterpastoral - into the indigenous American berserk."

If you've never read Philip Roth, here's the quick introduction. Roth is known for his complex but readable prose - he writes with a huge vocabulary and an uncanny ability to "turn sentences around" (as he calls it in "The Ghost Writer"). His novel often blur the distinction between reality and fiction, and he frequently provocatively addresses Jewish-American issues and American identity. "American Pastoral" rightly feels like his masterwork because it does all of these in equal parts. The novel is rife with confrontation; it's written with an underlying tension that continues to the last heartbreaking page. It's a pleasure to read, but more so a joy to dissect.

"American Pastoral" is rich and dense with thematic undercurrent that gradually reveals itself along the course of its pages. In the hands of a lesser writer, this breadth of thematic territory could be overwhelming and scattershot, but Roth manages it effortlessly. It's his characters that shoulder the weight of the meaning; these are deep, relatable, archetypical characters, each bolstered with supple backstories rife with politics, economics, social implications, generational rebellion, and those quiet formative moments that shape a person for a lifetime. Ultimately, Roth paints a portrait of three generations of an American family, and the rest of the story shakes out like dust from between the pages.

However, it's equally easy to dismiss Roth's characters (especially Swede Levov) as exaggerations -- impossible monuments that, no matter how flawed, simply don't behave as normal people would behave. But that's the point -- it's important to remember the framing of the story: the entire narrative of the Levov family is created in the mind of Zuckerman, based on only three brief conversations. The story is so immersive, in fact, that there are points in the narrative that we're removed from Zuckerman and Nathan's voice becomes Seymour's voice; it becomes his story as much as it is ours. As effective and believable as it is, ultimately, the entire novel is a construction of the writer Zuckerman. (And Zuckerman is a construction of the writer Roth... so go ahead and add another line of thematic density to your list.)

In the end, Roth (and Zuckerman) use duality to illuminate the thin rifts that divide us: how two very different wars created two very different generations, how strikingly thin is the line between order and disorder (in family, country, self, etc), how differently subsequent generations view the American dream. And as I sit on the precipice of fatherhood, I couldn't help but read the novel as a dissection of how little control parents have in controlling the worldview of their children, and how much influence children have in the worldview of their parents.

2-0 out of 5 stars Overrated
I've read most of Philip Roth's novels but not in order of publication.I came to this one late and find it hard to understand why it received so much praise.The writing is overblown and pompous.The allegorical drive to make the characters stand for the underside and disillusionment of America in the 1960s means that the characters collapse under the weight of everything they're supposed to symbolize.All the female characters are monsters -- that's the word the narrator and characters use over and over again -- but not interesting monsters.And we learn far more than we need to do about the details of glove manufacturing.There are definitely some interesting ideas here, but the book never comes together as a fully realized, well-crafted novel.If you want to read mainstream Roth, I recommend giving this one a miss and reading THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA, or better yet, pick up ZUCKERMAN UNBOUND, anunsung masterpiece.

2-0 out of 5 stars American Pastoral
I am wading through this book because a book group to which I belong will be discussing it. The book is overly long and tedious, but you can't skip sections because you never know when a sentence or two will come along that finally moves the story forward. When Roth gets back to the story, rather than getting bogged down in details about the decline of Newark, about manufacturing gloves, and other side issues, the story is quite gripping and very upsetting. It it based on real events, but engenders little sympathy for the participants in the riots of the 60's & 70's and their families.
I think he had enough naterial for a long short story or perhaps a novelette, but insisted on stretching it out over 423 pages.

2-0 out of 5 stars Ideas/Themes are there, poorly executed, poor standard for Pulitzer
Unbelievable that this would win a prize, let alone the Pulitzer. Quality in modern writing is just not there, I couldn't imagine such poor quality being published years ago.

The idea and theme were excellent and should have produced a wonderful novel. I found though this was poorly written, it was like the author didn't want to work at it and thought he could get away with it - at times it was rambling. Characters were poorly drawn, most notably Merry.

4-0 out of 5 stars Very Slightly Disappointed (3.5 Stars)
Philip Roth is truly a unique and outstanding writer.It is somewhat of a travesty that he has yet to win the Nobel Prize For Literature.

I was really looking forward to American Pastoral which is the first Zuckerman novel that doesn't focus primarily on Nathan Zuckerman.It focuses on the seemingly charmed life of Seymour "Swede" Levov, a hero from Zuckerman's Newark.This novel won the Pulitzer Prize and is considered by many to be if not Roth's greatest novel then certainly one of the greatest.

For me, there are long periods of brillance in the story.Levov is living the American Dream.He is a tremendous athlete, a good person and a very successful businessman.For much of his life, he does not seem to have a misstep.He marries Miss New Jersey and they have a wonderful daughter.

Suddenly, the American Dream goes south as Levov's daughter is not the perfect All American girl.She turns into an overweight, angry girl with a stuttering problem.She is very, very angry about the Viet Nam War.Even though Swede is also against the war, she has disdain for his cozy, comfortable life.The Levov world falls apart when the daughter, Merry, bombs a local store, killing someone and then goes underground.

Swede Levov's pain and story is wonderfully told.Despite his daughter's crimes, he loves her and longs to save her.He is very nostalgiac about the perfect daughter of childhood.Despite dealing with the tragedy as well as he can, Swede never recovers.He has always had an accomodating character and done the right and sensible thing but the pain and sorrow eat him up inside.

Swede's brother, Jerry, is a perfect contrast in that he is outspoken, goes against the grain and lives life as he feels like it.His moments of telling Swede the way it is are very strong.

This is creative, heartwrenching and well written story of a perfect 1950s man lost and disoriented by the turmoil of the 60s.Roth describes the 60s in a very simplistic way intentionally as this is Swede Levov's perspective.

Again, I'll restate that American Pastoral has rich themes, typical Roth humour and interesting and unusual characters and situations.

Unfortunately several Amazon customers who have given negative reviews are correct in pointing out what I think is a significant flaw.The book really becomes tedious in points.Roth is extremely repetitive and looks at the same events from many different perspectives.This works for awhile but ultimately American Pastoral becomes a chore to read.

Roth is a wonderful writer and as much as it makes me feel like a Philistine, I have to say, he could have cut out 50 pages from this novel and it would have worked a lot better.

I definitely recommend it.Even if you find it tedious, there are lots of truly wonderful moments in the novel.
... Read more

4. Everyman
by Philip Roth
Paperback: 182 Pages (2007-04-10)
list price: US$13.00 -- used & new: US$3.75
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0307277712
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
Philip Roth's new novel is a candidly intimate yet universal story of loss, regret, and stoicism. The bestselling author of The Plot Against America now turns his attention from "one family's harrowing encounter with history" (New York Times) to one man's lifelong skirmish with mortality.

The fate of Roth's everyman is traced from his first shocking confrontation with death on the idyllic beaches of his childhood summers, through the family trials and professional achievements of his vigorous adulthood, and into his old age, when he is rended by observing the deterioration of his contemporaries and stalked by his own physical woes.

The terrain of this powerful novel is the human body. Its subject is the common experience that terrifies us all. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (153)

4-0 out of 5 stars A Big Risk for Everyman, But Not His Fate
Roth's novel focuses on death, as told through the story of a single life.A successful advertising executive, son of a New Jersey immigrant jeweler, finds that life is painful, meaningless, shaped by random events, ultimately leading to oblivion.At surface level the book is quite depressing, although the discussion with the gravedigger at the end has a special flavor.

Roth retells the familiar story of pursuit of earthly career, hedonistic and carnal pleasures as being ultimately unfulfilling.The story is told from the point of view of mourners at a funeral plus musings by the main character about events in his life.He lacks self-awareness, purpose and responsibility, justifying his poor decisions as being common and approved by his male peers.In addition to the basic existential challenge, Roth seems to be saying that character matters and that some of our decisions have lifelong impacts, even aside from their possible moral content.

Although the author paints a very negative picture, in a backhanded way he shows that relationships and family really do matter and that honest engagement with nature or your craft (gravedigging) is a worthwhile use of time.Ironically, many readers will walk away from this dark book with a greater belief in tradition, culture, community and religion as the heart of a well-lived life - items absent from this story.

5-0 out of 5 stars Very well written and very interesting
On December 12, 1969, the great writer Saul Bellow wrote to Philip Roth and described him as "one of our best and most interesting writers.... I was greatly stimulated and entertained by your last novel."Whether Philip Roth is writing about sexual experiences, as he does in virtually every book, or about illness and dying, as he does in this volume, readers find the book fascinating even if they abhor descriptions of sex, illness, and dying, because Roth portrays the events so unusually well. His language stands out like a beautiful young girl in a red dress strolling on a dreary dark street.
The title Everyman is drawn from the classic fifth century allegorical play, which discusses the ultimate end, death, of everyman. This short drama is a modern version of the ancient play. We are introduced to our everyman at his funeral, a pathetic affair because it lacked any real love of the deceased, except by his brother, who he only saw when he came to help him, and his daughter, whom he barely knew. Roth describes him as a man who wandered through life with no apparent purpose, like most other people, with failure after failure and no understanding how to stop them. He had three wives and countless mistresses, but each marriage was unsuccessful and the mistresses did not last long. His two sons of his first marriage hated him.
The story, in short, like the ancient play, is an allegory of the pathetic way that most men go through life not really enjoying it, yet fearful that it will end.

2-0 out of 5 stars I must be missing something....
A great work of literature has atmosphere, insight, or unique style.Or all three. I dropped EVERYMAN half way through. Unremarkable narrative, sounds like your uncles long winded story at a family gathering. Didnt do anything for me.

5-0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book. But I'll give a warning!
*This is a pretty short book, and it reads very smoothly. It is really gripping!

*It's about the life and death of a man, and it is a story of pain, loss, and grief. Really depressing. :(

*I found it haunting. Both the story and the way it is narrated are great. This Philip Roth guy is really good! He's also pretty lucid. :)

*The warning: don't let this fiction get to you. It is FICTION.Whatever situation you find yourself in, it is almost impossible for you not find something enjoyable or something meaningful to do in it.

4-0 out of 5 stars "Everyman" may not be every man, but it does capture many American male struggles and angst
The popularity and critical acclaim that Philip Roth has earned over the course of a fifty year literary career must stem from some basic truths that appeal to a fairly wide audience of readers and critics.If these truths weren't clear by now, "Everyman" makes them readily apparent: Philip Roth's works speak to the struggles, angst, foibles and follies of the educated upper middle class American male.What women may think of Philip Roth I have no idea, except by judging the reactions of female readers, which tend to be much less positive than male readers' reactions.Perhaps what Oprah and "The View" do for women, Philip Roth does for men.

The basic structure of "Everyman" is a man recounting (and often lamenting) the major episodes in his life, as he looks back while facing the inevitable and yet unpredictable end."Everyman" springs from earth that Roth has tilled many times before: childhood in northeastern New Jersey; love, intimacy, marriage and divorce; family, especially fathers and brothers; and physical ailments and death.There is a particular emphasis in "Everyman" on the travails of aging, and the inevitable, inexorable decline as each person falls from the height of his powers to an often slow, agonizing, lonely death.

Although the details of each man's life differ, I believe that many upper middle class American men will identify with the struggles of the main character in "Everyman".He divorces three times, and while not every American man will do so, I think most will be able to identify with the forces that the main character struggles with.As time goes on, he ends up estranged from several close relations and his loneliness mounts, which are certainly issues that many older people face. The portrayal that "Everyman" presents of aging and death is not a nice one, but it may be an all too common one.

Being a short novel, "Everyman" does not have the space for long tangential off-shoots of narrative, or passages rooted in alternate realities, or other literary techniques employed by Roth in his longer works.In that sense it is one of his more straightforward works, and yet it does read as a complete unabbreviated work.Because Roth is capable of much more inventive works of literature, I wouldn't rank "Everyman" among his best, but for what it is, a short novel, it did please this reader.
... Read more

5. Portnoy's Complaint
by Philip Roth
Paperback: 289 Pages (1994-09-20)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$7.93
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679756450
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
Portnoy's Complaint n. [after Alexander Portnoy (1933-)]A disorder in which strongly-felt ethical and altruistic impulses are perpetually warring with extreme sexual longings, often of a perverse nature. Spielvogel says: 'Acts of exhibitionism, voyeurism, fetishism, auto-eroticism and oral coitus are plentiful; as a consequence of the patient's "morality," however, neither fantasy nor act issues in genuine sexual gratification, but rather in overriding feelings of shame and the dread of retribution, particularly in the form of castration.' (Spielvogel, O. "The Puzzled Penis," Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse, Vol. XXIV, p. 909.) It is believed by Spielvogel that many of the symptoms can be traced to the bonds obtaining in the mother-child relationship.

With a new Afterword by the author for the 25th Anniversary edition.Amazon.com Review
Along with Saul Bellow'sHerzog, PhilipRoth's Portnoy's Complaint defined Jewish American literaturein the 1960s. Roth's masterpiece takes place on the couch of apsychoanalyst, an appropriate jumping-off place for an insanelycomical novel about the Jewish American experience. Roth has writtenseveral great books--Goodbye, Columbus andWhen She WasGood among them, but it is perhaps Portnoy's Complaintfor which he is best known. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (108)

4-0 out of 5 stars Book Title: Portnoy's Complaint
After hearing a lot of good reviews of the book 'Portnoy's Complaint' I checked out the internet and found the book for sale on 'Amazon'.
Whilst I wouldn't rate the book itself as highly as others I was very happy with the transaction.

4-0 out of 5 stars Should be required reading for mothers of teenage boys
Quick read, rather bawdy; great excuse to say 'No, Thanks!' to Mom's liver dinner.Should be required reading for mothers of boys.

3-0 out of 5 stars Hilarious--I see why it's a classic
"What made us superior was precisely the hatred they lavished upon us." (56) Don't even have to be Jewish to relate. The affliction. Add alliteration: "publicly pleasing my parents while privately pulling my putz!" (37). Pondering with the good Doctor/analyst, "Is this truth I'm delivering up, or it is just plain *kvetching*? Or is kvetching for people like me a *form* of truth?" (94) Woody Allen truly stood on Roth's shoulders, though Allen maybe whines more than work to self-improve.The final lines of the book I won't spoil, but they're a meta-message about the whole work of self-examination. It's all summed up, my neurosis as much as anyone else who can't believe how often they fall back on old patterns and scripts, here: "I am whimpering on the floor with MY MEMORIES! My endless childhood! Which I won't relinquish--or which won't relinquish me! Which is it!" (271) Every night, I looked fwd to opening its little yellow cover. At times grating, but I LOL'd every few pages.

5-0 out of 5 stars The psychoanalysis of the common man.
Philip Roth really gets inside the skin of Alex Portnoy, the thirty-three-year-old Commissioner of Human Rights (or something) in John Lindsay's New York of the 1960s.We see his development from an emic point of view from the age of about four until his current maturity.First his domineering and demanding family, then his adolescent relationships with his schoolmates and girls of varying degrees of accessibility and virture, then his adventures with three grown-up women.It ends with the ululation of a psychologicall fragile and mortally wounded antelope.

We'll never know exactly how much of this character study is autobiographical.Certainly its more accidental features -- growing up in Newark, swimming in Olympic Park, masturbation.(I take masturbation among adolescents to be pretty much universal; at least I hope it is.)But certainly not ALL of it.

The three shikses, or Gentile women, that Portnoy involves himself with are surely chosen for their emblematic qualities."The Monkey" is a sexually voracious redneck model from Appalachia who, at 29, wants to settle down and get married.She represents the uneducated, the gorgeous, the bourgois."The Pumpkin" is plump and comes from a Wasp Middle West family in a clean house with shutters and an elm tree, where everyone asks, "How are you?" and says, "Slept like a LOG."She's educated, though, a student at Antioch, just too bland for the sophisticated Portnoy."The Pilgrim" is a member of the New England elite, an ex-preppy who knows how to ride horses on the vast acres of her family's Connecticut estate.The three are humanized stereotypes and Roth must have developed the characters to give us Portnoy's view of the way in which the world of the Goyim is divided -- one dumb hillbilly, one fat farmer's daughter, and one snobbish aristocrat.

Well, I used the word "stereotypes" but they're recognizable stereotypes.Or at least so it seems to me.In high school I attended the high-school Homecoming games on Thanksgiving that Roth describes, except I was on the other side, Hillside High School.The local color is -- let's call it evocative, as well as hilarious.

But the book is really about Portnoy's savage digging into his own psyche.From time to time he erupts into capital letters.LET'S PUT THE ID BACK IN YID!LET'S PUT THE OY BACK IN GOY!LET MY PENIS GO!He's pretty rough on the Goys.As usually depicted in his pink nightgown Christ looks like a fairy to Portnoy.He's rough on the Israelis too.He finds himself symbolically impotent when he tries to make love to a big, tough, contemptuous red-headed Israeli Lieutenant, although he's down on the floor begging her for nothing more than an opportunity to assault her with his drooping tongue.

He's roughest of all on the Jews her grew up with.He weeps for the sacrifices of his father and, especially, his balabusta mother -- but it's that GUILT that's keeping him in chains.He's like Buridan's ass, starving to death mid-way between two stacks of hay:his allegiance to the values his family have beaten into him, along with their conviction that he'll never make it, and his desperation to break free of those values and find a life of his own, an independent life.

It's an adult story with a great deal of vulgarity in it, sometimes side splitting.

A Jewish doctor once told me, "No offense, but I think you really have to be Jewish to understand this."Well, I suppose it depends on your ability to get inside Portnoy's skin.You don't need to do half the job that Roth did.

5-0 out of 5 stars Alexander Portnoy is definitely NOT the "Master of His Domain"
I used the SEINFELD reference in my title for a couple of reasons. First, fans of the series will immediately know what it's referring to, and second, I have met people who stated that SEINFELD was an "obscene" TV series --and their rationale was the "Master of ones' Domain" episode. (For those that don't know... it dealt with masturbation --or more specifically, a 'contest' to see who could refrain from the act the longest; i.e., to be the "Master of his domain.")

So, if you count yourself among those who felt that SEINFELD pushed the obscenity envelope past the limits of what was appropriate, a fair warning: Don't read PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT. Because if you can't handle tongue-in-cheek banter about the topic of masturbation, Philip Roth's uninhibited, unrestrained, unabashed dissection of the subject will likely make your head explode. Stop reading now, check the box below to acknowledge I was helpful, and move on to something rated "G."

The year is 1966 and Alexander Portnoy is, at best, a conflicted and emotionally-tortured 33-year-old man. Well-educated, he is an attorney working for the City of New York, making far less than he could because his job is to serve the poor. But this isn't why he's conflicted.

Having 'come-of-age' in the 1940s and 50s in a Newark suburb, his Jewish family surrounded almost exclusively with other Jewish families, his parents instilled in him both a fear and loathing for all things non-Jewish. If the Jews do it, it's good. If the "goyim" (non-Jews) do it, it's bad.

>>>SIDEBAR... if you are not at least moderately fluent in Yiddish expressions, I would strongly recommend reading this book with a Yiddish-English dictionary handy. Otherwise, a lot of what is said will likely sail right over your head. Here's a link to a good one: [...]
Alexander has also discovered, at the age of 13 or so, the joys of self-gratification. And coupled with his parent's incessant warnings about "the goyim," more often than not his fantasies revolve around that most-forbidden fruit: "shiksas" (non-Jewish women).

Virtually the entire book is his monologue to his psychiatrist. And these revelations are laugh-out-loud funny. "Dr. Spielvogel" listens to the creative ways he sought to pleasure himself, as well as his early recognition that doing "it" before, after and even DURING dinner were perhaps, a bit much. (His "cover" for getting excused from the dinner table before he finished eating? He clutched his stomach complaining of diarrhea, and his mother immediately "knew" that the reason was that he had gone with a "goy" friend after school to eat "goyishe" food: horror of horrors--french fries!)

Readers of PORTNOY may also recognize some modern pop-culture references that were no doubt inspired by the book. The infamous 'hair gel' scene in THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY, as well as the shocking apple pie scene from AMERICAN PIE, figure into Alexander Portnoy's teen years. (Although for Alexander, it wasn't a pie... it was a raw piece of liver!)

As an adult, when Portnoy is actually dating women instead of simply fantasizing about them, he is drawn to non-Jewish women. His interactions with Mary Jane Reed, a.k.a. "The Monkey," both excite and repulse him. She's everything he ever dreamed about. He can't stand her because she's uneducated and crude. She's beautiful. He's afraid to take her to a gala event because of what he thinks she would say to the Mayor of New York.

All in all, PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT is a wild ride. It is rude, crude, hysterical, sad, hilarious, shocking ...and more. I can't believe that it took me 42 years to get around to reading the book, but to be fair, it really isn't age-appropriate reading for a six-year-old anyway... not that I would have understood ANY of it had I read it when it was first released!

Highly recommended... with caveats for the easily-offended.

- Jonathan Sabin

... Read more

6. The Humbling (Vintage International)
by Philip Roth
Paperback: 160 Pages (2010-10-05)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$8.49
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0307472582
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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Simon Axler, one of the leading American stage actors of his generation, is now in his sixties and has lost his magic, talent, and assurance. His Falstaff and Peer Gynt and Vanya, all his great roles, “are melted into air, into thin air.” When his wife leaves him, and after a stint at a mental hospital, he retires to his upstate New York country house and hopes for deliverance, which arrives in the form of the lithe, vibrant, and ever-subversive Pegeen Stapleford, the daughter of old friends and 25 years his junior.
In this tight, surprising narrative told with Roth’s inimitable urgency, bravura, and gravity, we confront the terrifying fragility of all our life’s performances. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (51)

3-0 out of 5 stars Disappointing...
A very disappointing book from one of my favorite authors. The first act - revolving around the mental anguish and eventual breakdown of a gifted actor who loses his ability to perform - is Mr. Roth at his best. One of the most powerful depictions of mental collapse I've read in fiction. The second act revolves around his attempt to find some definition and escape through a perverse relationship with a jilted and revengeful lesbian woman whom he has known since she was a child. It is here where the work breaks down irreparably; a descent into perversion that takes its time far too leisurely and does little to develop the main protagonist. It is only with the third act that the actor's disturbing escape into fantasy becomes truly heartbreaking. His ultimate response to his trauma seemed destined and unavoidable yet the shock for me was none the less powerful. Perhaps this work should have been a long short story instead of a short novel. Even at a mere 140 pages the story seems way too long with the second act and the beginning of the third act coming across too much as filler.

1-0 out of 5 stars You are Killing Kindle
I have bought DOZENS of Kindle books from you but now that there is maybe a buck difference between paper and electrons I am going back to print. At least I have a tangible product that I can pass on to another reader. Talk about killing the goose that laid the golden egg

3-0 out of 5 stars Short, Brutal, Imperfect
Philip Roth is back with the cruel short novel, but unlike the nearly perfect INDIGNATION, this book is cruel and short but not nearly perfect.The first third raises high hopes; in clinical detail, Roth spells out the humiliating loss of confidence in an aging actor and his spiral into depression and loss.But as the tale spins on, it becomes slightly ludicrous (and full of old-man writer sexual fantasies).The last 10 pages are back to brutal incision and clarity, and he almost rescues it with a single sentence that describes the preceding 70 pages in a way that makes them seem worthwhile.Well, almost worthwhile.It's still full of great writing, because Roth's prose is world class, but ultimately even this very short novel wears a little thin.

1-0 out of 5 stars I hope the rest of his novels are better
Like one other reader here, this was my first foray into Philip Roth. I had read somewhere that like Thomas Pynchon (one of my new favorite authors), he was considered one of the four most important living American writers. I work at a Library, and was shelving The Humbling, which looked short and had a neat cover, and the dust jacket intro seemed promising. I felt I could squeeze ~150 pages into my already overstocked reading list.

I finished reading it yesterday after reading half of it last weekend and being too thoroughly depressed by it to continue. When I was done, I told my wife that I had just read the worst book in my entire life.

Look, maybe I'm not "getting" it. Maybe Roth was meant for someone smarter than me. But I'm not going to take the time needed to read between the lines of this one. If there's anything below the surface of Axler's morbid self-pity and self-centeredness, tell me. The entire novel was one long whine after another.

I doubt I'll ever read Roth again.

2-0 out of 5 stars The decline of Phillip Roth
I was disappointed in the quality of writing after some memorable books by Roth. The constant, self-centered whining about aging is tiring. ... Read more

7. Goodbye, Columbus : And Five Short Stories (Vintage International)
by Philip Roth
Paperback: 320 Pages (1993-01-13)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$4.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679748261
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
Roth's award-winning first book instantly established its author's reputation as a writer of explosive wit, merciless insight, and a fierce compassion for even the most self-deluding of his characters.

Goodbye, Columbus is the story of Neil Klugman and pretty, spirited Brenda Patimkin, he of poor Newark, she of suburban Short Hills, who meet one summer break and dive into an affair that is as much about social class and suspicion as it is about love. The novella is accompanied by five short stories that range in tone from the iconoclastic to the astonishingly tender and that illuminate the subterranean conflicts between parents and children and friends and neighbors in the American Jewish diaspora. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (58)

2-0 out of 5 stars Kindle edition chock full of OCR errors
Sadly, the kindle edition is replete with typos - seemingly from an un-proofread OCR translation. A truly great book, but completely unreadable. Too bad Roth's publisher isn't available on the itunes store...

1-0 out of 5 stars Kindle typos ruin one of my favorite books
From the first quarter of the first story:

The darker it got the more savagely did Brenda msh the net ...

Though it w3s summer now nnd I was out of college three years, it w3s not hard for me ...

The page he had been looking at showed an 81/212 x 11 print

... twinkled in his boyish eves Poor little Tulie (eves should be eyes, no period, Tulie for Julie)

yamdkah (not yamulkah)

In the entire house I had'nt seen one picture of Mr. Patimkin.

incongrosly (misspelled)

Believe me, I could on like this all day -- there were hundreds of mistakes like these. And that's such a shame. Amazon's refusal to deploy a proofreader -- or maybe Amazon doesn't have permission to change Tulie to Julie? -- makes for an infuriating experience. My battered paperback copy of this book accompanied me through my teenage years and early 20s -- helped tip the scales in favor of my choosing to become a writer for a living. The experience of reading this on the Kindle was such a disappointment that I really wonder how Amazon's not ashamed to ask readers for money for a defective product that's inferior to the one that was originally published 51 years ago. Terrible.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent Showing for First Novel - American Classic
In an effort to read less junk, I have been picking up more contemporary literature. This book was one more step in the right direction.

Philip Roth is one of America's most prolific and lauded contemporary authors, and most of his work is considered to be semi-autobiographical.

This book, his first work, contains the novella, "Goodbye, Columbus" and five much shorter stories.

In this collection, all of his protagonists are Jewish males. And, like nearly all of his works, the stories take place in New Jersey.

"Goodbye, Columbus" is the story of a young man who is attracted to a red-headed athletic young woman that he sees at a country club. He pursues Brenda with the persistency of a man who has the confidence to have a beautiful woman but with the sarcastic tone that belies the chip on his shoulder for not quite measuring up.

He sees everything with a smirk; his tone is belittling and condescending to cover his sense of not belonging in Brenda's suburban Jewish life.

I am re-reading it again just to learn how Roth wrote that smirk.

The other five stories are good. Almost like fables, my favorite one, "Conversion of the Jews", is startlingly profound, calling to mind questions I think that most of us have subliminally thought but were never able to say.

If you are interested in dipping your toe into some more "literary" work, this book is extremely easy to read and I found the stories to be quite moving.

4-0 out of 5 stars Nice Novel
I bought this book for school but had previously viewed the movie. I was pleased with the relatable narrative. This is a great coming of age story in the restrictive pre-women's rights era.

5-0 out of 5 stars Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth
Here is Roth's masterpiece-in-stories, six pieces dealing with his trademark themes of love, assimilation, and maybe even despair. It begins with the famous title story, a startingly realistic college love story with deadly accurate characterization and a painfully truthful conclusion. From there Roth delves deeply into the American Jewish psyche, with characters that morph from sharply denying to acutely embracing their faith and spirituality. The overall feeling upon completing the book is of people forgetting their faith in the midst of a burgeoning sense of acculturation, and the shock delivered to the system when, through fate or circumstance, one has to deal with their fundamental self. Like the best of the fiction of its time, it is incredibly readable while also having a stunning tone and underlying structure. Every story is a knockout here, and will make you want to stay in the crazy yet somehow warm world that Roth creates. That he wrote such a collection at such a young age is stunning; thankfully it was the herald of a consistently brilliant career. An outstanding collection. ... Read more

8. The Plot Against America
by Philip Roth
Paperback: 391 Pages (2005-09-27)
list price: US$15.95 -- used & new: US$2.77
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1400079497
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
In an astonishing feat of empathy and narrative invention, our most ambitious novelist imagines an alternate version of American history.
In 1940 Charles A. Lindbergh, heroic aviator and rabid isolationist, is elected President. Shortly thereafter,he negotiates a cordial “understanding” with Adolf Hitler, while the new government embarks on a program of folksy anti-Semitism.

For one boy growing up in Newark, Lindbergh’s election is the first in a series of ruptures that threaten to destroy his small, safe corner of America–and with it, his mother, his father, and his older brother.Amazon.com Review
"What if" scenarios are often suspect.They are sometimes thinly veiled tales of the gospel according to the author, taking on the claustrophobic air of a personal fantasia that can't be shared.Such is not the case with Philip Roth's tour de force, The Plot Against America.It is a credible, fully-realized picture of what could happen anywhere, at any time, if the right people and circumstances come together.

The Plot Against America explores a wholly imagined thesis and sees it through to the end:Charles A. Lindbergh defeats FDR for the Presidency in 1940.Lindbergh, the "Lone Eagle," captured the country's imagination by his solo Atlantic crossing in 1927 in the monoplane,Spirit of St. Louis, then had the country's sympathy upon the kidnapping and murder of his young son.He was a true American hero: brave, modest, handsome, a patriot.According to some reliable sources, he was also a rabid isolationist, Nazi sympathizer, and a crypto-fascist.It is these latter attributes of Lindbergh that inform the novel.

The story is framed in Roth's own family history: the family flat in Weequahic, the neighbors, his parents, Bess and Herman, his brother, Sandy and seven-year-old Philip.Jewishness is always the scrim through which Roth examines American contemporary culture.His detractors say that he sees persecution everywhere, that he is vigilant in "Keeping faith with the certainty of Jewish travail"; his less severe critics might cavil about his portrayal of Jewish mothers and his sexual obsession, but generally give him good marks, and his fans read every word he writes and heap honors upon him.This novel will engage and satisfy every camp.

"Fear presides over these memories, a perpetual fear. Of course, no childhood is without its terrors, yet I wonder if I would have been a less frightened boy if Lindbergh hadn't been president or if I hadn't been the offspring of Jews."This is the opening paragraph of the book, which sets the stage and tone for all that follows.Fear is palpable throughout; fear of things both real and imagined.A central event of the novel is the relocation effort made through the Office of American Absorption, a government program whereby Jews would be placed, family by family, across the nation, thereby breaking up their neighborhoods--ghettos--and removing them from each other and from any kind of ethnic solidarity.The impact this edict has on Philip and all around him is horrific and life-changing.Throughout the novel, Roth interweaves historical names such as Walter Winchell, who tries to run against Lindbergh.The twist at the end is more than surprising--it is positively ingenious.

Roth has written a magnificent novel, arguably his best work in a long time.It is tempting to equate his scenario with current events, but resist, resist.Of course it is a cautionary tale, but, beyond that, it is a contribution to American letters by a man working at the top of his powers.--Valerie Ryan ... Read more

Customer Reviews (418)

4-0 out of 5 stars Almost perfect
I loved everything about this book except for the ending. It felt like he got suddenly tired of writing it and wanted to go on with something else. That being said, the writing was spectacular. I'm not a big fan of these «What if...» stories but with this book, Roth definitely hit it way out of the park. I sometimes had to put the book down and tell myself that it was not how it all happened. I am a huge Philip Roth fan and «The Plot Against America» is way up there with «I Married a Communist» on my all time favorite books list.

4-0 out of 5 stars Almost a masterpiece
Writing a good alternate history novel must be incredibly tricky. Usually stories set in alternate universes are merely an excuse for the author to show off how clever and imaginative he is. With The Plot Against America, Philip Roth almost makes the perfect alternate history novel. Almost.
If there are flaws in the novel, they come at the very end. The first 300+ pages are expertly written with a palatable sense of dread, but all that comes to naught if you can't deliver a satisfying ending. With his climax, Roth strains credibility.
Roth is one of my favorite authors, but here he seems to have grown tired of writing the book and just wraps things up as quickly and effortlessly as possible. I so wanted to give this book five stars. I just can't.

5-0 out of 5 stars A modern masterpiece
Philip Roth's "The Plot Against America" is an absolute tour de force, a modern masterpiece. (Mild spoilers follow). The central character is the eight-year-old American Jew, Philip Roth, who inhabits an alternative history where Charles Lindbergh, the notoriously anti-Semitic aviator who was the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic, wins the 1940 presidential election. True to form, Lindbergh then tacitly supports the Axis powers in World War II (under the guise of isolationism) and enacts successively more repressive anti-Jewish laws (under the guise of assimilation). The rest of the novel follows Philip and the rest of the Roth clan as they come to terms with, and accommodate to, the new dispensation.

I don't pretend to be a competent literati, so I won't do much of a review except to note that the prose is superb and that Roth has a preternatural ability to render the psychology of people buffeted by events beyond their control and understanding. I said the same about McCarthy, but I think it's equally true of Roth: he deserves the Nobel Prize for Literature.

3-0 out of 5 stars The Plot Goes Astray
I was all set to give this at least 4 stars--and then came the last fifty pages.I haven't been this disappointed with an ending since reading "Next" by James Hynes.(Admittedly that was only a few months ago.)Amazon's review calls that ending "ingenious."I would call it "far-fetched," "ridiculous," "implausible," "deux-ex-machina," and most of the 7 words you can't say on television.It's an ending that completely destroys an otherwise good novel.

This is one of those "alternate history" novels.Only Roth's is more plausible (until the end) than say Harry Turtledove's "Guns of the South" where time travelers give machine-guns to the south in the civil war.Roth's scenario all turns on Charles Lindbergh running for president in 1940 and winning.I'm not sure Lindy could have beat an experienced politician and campaigner like FDR even if he had run, but that's not important.

Instead of focusing on Lindbergh, FDR, or any historical persons, most of the story revolves around Philip Roth and his family.(Because if there's a subject Philip Roth really loves it's Philip Roth.)Philip is 7 at the start of the book and lives in a flat with his older brother Sandy, his insurance salesman father, his stay-at-home mother, and his orphaned cousin Alvin.

After Lindbergh takes office, his parents--especially his father--fear that America will turn into a fascist state like Nazi Germany.He has reason to fear when Lindy signs an "understanding" with Hitler to maintain peace between them.Cousin Alvin goes off to Canada to join the British in opposing the Nazis while Sandy becomes smitten with Lindbergh after a stint on a Kentucky farm through the "Just Folks" program that sends urban kids--mostly Jews--to rural areas to spend a summer.

That kind of cultural assimilation is the most anti-Semitic it gets through most of the book, except for an incident on a trip to Washington DC.Most of the time the Roth family's fear and paranoia is the real enemy.There are no concentration camps or gas chambers.

Most of the book then is a portrait of how fear can tear a family apart, as it nearly does the Roth family.Fissures form between Philip's father and Cousin Alvin, between Philip's father and Sandy, and between Philip's mother and her sister, who marries a rabbi who advises the new First Lady.

Where the book really goes astray is by trying to tack on a sort of happy ending.OK, here's your spoiler alert:

There's the spoiler space!

Anyway, in the last 50 pages, Walter Winchell makes wild accusations about Lindbergh on the air and gets fired.When he decides to run against Lindy (a campaign with as much chance as Stephen Colbert in 2012), he's assassinated in Louisville.This sparks riots and anti-Jewish attacks.

That's all fine.Where it really goes wrong is that Lindbergh flies to Louisville in the "Spirit of St. Louis" and delivers a brief speech to reassure people.After that he disappears!The plane presumably crashes somewhere.Like something out of "24" the new president starts arresting people right and left, including FDR.He even goes so far as to have Mrs. Lindbergh committed.But she escapes and delivers a speech accusing the new president of treason and he's arrested and a new election held.FDR wins this election and from there everything goes back to the timeline we know.The Japanese attack Pearl Harbor and America enters the war.

And in less than 3 years we're victorious!That's the most implausible part of all.The Germans are more entrenched, as are the Japanese, and yet we defeat them in less time?That's absurd.This whole part becomes some bizarre patriotic flag-waving exercise that makes no sense at all.It also relies on the deux-ex-machina device of a plane crash, after which Roth piles one absurdity onto another.

It would have made more sense to end the book unhappily.Have the Roths flee to Canada.Have Lindbergh set up concentration camps.That would make sense.Trying to make this end in a somewhat happy fashion, especially one this implausible, does not work.

There, now you can't complain about the spoilers!The ending is one of those that makes me so angry and disappointed that it's hard to remember the rest of the book was good.Maybe not as good as "American Pastoral" or "Portnoy's Complaint" but still better than a lot of books.

It was still better than Michael Chabon's "Yiddish Policeman's Union" which is a similar Jewish-themed alternate history.That was wrapped in a lame Dan Brown-style thriller plot.Roth's family drama makes for a better read--at least until the end.

(Actually they both have terribly ridiculous endings.Maybe alternate histories just inspire that.)

That is all.

1-0 out of 5 stars Historical Fixation
I've read and enjoyed historical fiction/alternative history novels from many authors.Graves's "I, Claudius" and "Claudius the God" are the standard of measure everyone author aims for. When I first saw this book I expected something in the nature of Robert Harris's "Fatherland" novel.

I was wrong.Those books mentioned had a plot; this book has none.It is a shallow attempt at historical fiction.

In summary: Charles Lindbergh becomes President, keeps us out of the WWII, flies around country and mysteriously disappears. FDR (our savior) gets re-elected and history as 'we know it' continues with Japan attacking Pearl Harbor. That in a nutshell is the ONLY historical fiction going on in this book.

The majority of the book is about 9 year old Philip Roth and the trials and tribulations of his brother, live in cousin, and mom and dad.It is boring, trite, and fatiguing to read with an ending so unspectacular.Roth wrote this book as if even HE was bored with it.It has that "let's get this over with" feeling in the last 3 chapters.

And the reader will see sentences running on and be confused why the book transitions from the thoughts of a 9 year old to what appears to be 'press releases'.This reader wonders did anyone proofread this?

I have never read a Philip Roth novel before and doubt I will again. It was that bad

... Read more

9. The Human Stain: A Novel American Trilogy (3)
by Philip Roth
Paperback: 384 Pages (2001-05-08)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$2.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375726349
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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It is 1998, the year in which America is whipped into a frenzy of prurience by the impeachment of a president, and in a small New England town, an aging classics professor, Coleman Silk, is forced to retire when his colleagues decree that he is a racist.The charge is a lie, but the real truth about Silk would have astonished even his most virulent accuser.

Coleman Silk has a secret, one which has been kept for fifty years from his wife, his four children, his colleagues, and his friends, including the writer Nathan Zuckerman.It is Zuckerman who stumbles upon Silk's secret and sets out to reconstruct the unknown biography of this eminent, upright man, esteemed as an educator for nearly all his life, and to understand how this ingeniously contrived life came unraveled.And to understand also how Silk's astonishing private history is, in the words of The Wall Street Journal,"magnificently" interwoven with "the larger public history of modern America."
Amazon.com Review
Athena College was snoozing complacently in the Berkshires until ColemanSilk--formerly "Silky Silk," undefeated welterweight pro boxer--strode inand shook the place awake. This faculty dean sacked the deadwood, made lotsof hot new hires, including Yale-spawned literary-theory wunderkindDelphine Roux, and pissed off so many people for so many decades that now,in 1998, they've all turned on him. Silk's character assassination ispartly owing to what the novel's narrator, Nathan Zuckerman, calls "theDevil of the Little Place--the gossip, the jealousy, the acrimony, theboredom, the lies."

But shocking, intensely dramatized events precipitate Silk's crisis. Heremarks of two students who never showed up for class, "Do they exist orare they spooks?" They turn out to be black, and lodge a bogus charge ofracism exploited by his enemies. Then, at 71, Viagra catapults Silk into"the perpetual state of emergency that is sexual intoxication," and heignites an affair with an illiterate janitor, Faunia Farley, 34. She's gota sharp sensibility, "the laugh of a barmaid who keeps a baseball bat ather feet in case of trouble," and a melancholy voluptuousness. "I'm back inthe tornado," Silk exults. His campus persecutors burn him for it--and hismain betrayer is Delphine Roux.

In a short space, it's tough to convey the gale-force quality of Silk'srants, or the odd effect of Zuckerman's narration, alternatelyretrospective and torrentially in the moment. The flashbacks to Silk'syouth in New Jersey are just as important as his turbulent forcedretirement, because it turns out that for his entire adult life, Silk hasbeen covering up the fact that he is a black man. (If this seemsimplausible, consider that the famous New York Times book criticAnatole Broyard did the same thing.) Young Silk rejects both the racismthat bars him from Woolworth's counter and the Negro solidarity of HowardUniversity. "Neither the they of Woolworth's nor the we of Howard" is forColeman Silk. "Instead the raw I with all its agility.Self-discovery--that was the punch to the labonz.... Self-knowledge but concealed. What is as powerful as that?"

Silk's contradictions power a great Philip Roth novel, but he's not theonly character who packs a punch. Faunia, brutally abused by her Vietnam vethusband (a sketchy guy who seems to have wandered in from a lesser RussellBanks novel), scarred by the death of her kids, is one of Roth's bestfemale characters ever. The self-serving Delphine Roux is intriguingly (andconvincingly) nutty, and any number of minor characters pop in, mouth off,kick ass, and vanish, leaving a vivid sense of human passion and perversitybehind. You might call it a stain. --Tim Appelo ... Read more

Customer Reviews (205)

5-0 out of 5 stars Roth Rules
It all started with American Pastoral. I was introduced to this great author who really is, to me, one of the last living great writers around. After American Pastoral, I read some of his newer books like Indignation, but did not like them. I thought that after writing American Pastoral, maybe that was all he had in him as far as greatness. Not so. I gave Human Stain a go, and it amazed me even more than American Pastoral. I really cannot fathom who a writer is capable of writing both American Pastoral and The Human Stain. How is a writer capable of that many rich, but altogether different characters and plot lines? I was simply amazed all throughout the Human Stain and liked it even better than American Pastoral. And it surprises me that Roth is not a bigger name in the mainstream. They know their stepehen kings and danielle steele's but not philip roths. That is sad, but also what makes these books a little more precious to those who revere such great works of art.

5-0 out of 5 stars American Tragedies
You have to love a book that begins with a scathing rant on the Monica Lewinsky affair and then slips smoothly into a narrative that covers the waterfront of Western culture from Greek mythology to Shakespeare to Mahler to the American transcendentalists. The story of classics scholar and dean Coleman Silk as narrated by reclusive Jewish novelist Nathan Zuckerman, The Human Stain investigates, applauds, denounces, and second-guesses individualism and self-invention as practiced within the confines of American mob morality. In Roth's America, the only thing worse than the ethical and intellectual bankruptcy of fitting in is the punishment awaiting those living outside the lines, whether by choice or trauma. Beyond the American scene, Human Stain stages a massive frontal assault on the current state of Western culture and thought carried out through memorable characters whose tragedies are so profound as to be nearly unfathomable. Animating every word is Roth's own restless, inconsolable discontent. It's not just that he's angry. Roth transforms anger into awareness, whether he's equating the rage of Achilles to that of a violently traumatized Vietnam vet or skewering academic culture (especially the French variety). Besides bearing witness to the struggles of his characters, Roth's refusal to go along with whatever comes along suggests that a negotiated but intact self can truly be wrestled from the seemingly contradictory ambitions of individual freedom and social cohesion.

5-0 out of 5 stars Lily White Eloquence
The guy who used to write masturbation stories of jew boys grows up.
This is a wonderful book about America, about the internal politics of the society and its workings and ultimately about the effects of the human spirit in twenty first century on the world it inhabits. The human stain is the ultimate corruptibility we bring to everything we touch, the reverse-midas of mankind.
A brilliant book.

4-0 out of 5 stars The Destructive Power of Isms
I was once a big fan of Roth (The Great American Novel being among my all-time favorites), but haven't read much other than The Plot Against America lately.It's 1998 and the nation is slavering over President Bill Clinton's affair with intern Monica Lewinsky.Familiar voice Nathan Zuckerman (The Ghost Writer, Zuckerman Unbound) narrates the story of his friend Coleman Silk, a classics professor at Athena College in Massachusetts.Silk's successful career as a professor and dean at the college has been turned upside down (actually ended) by a spurious charge of racism, after which Silk, now in his early 70s, begins an affair with a cleaning woman at the college in her 30s.

Racism, ageism, sexism, religious bigotry, academic jealousy, PTSD, and political correctness - all elements of the human stain of the title - weigh on Silk as he attempts to live life on his own terms.A primarily noble figure, Silk's independent streak forces him to live with the fallout of hard choices he's made along the way.

Roth's technique in telling Silk's tale is masterful as he moves back and forth in time, revealing salient events and details about Silk's life at the most unexpected times.The story focuses on Silk, but other characters, particularly his girlfriend Faunia Farley and her ex-husband Lester Farley, are well drawn.My only quibble is with the character of Silk's academic nemesis, Delphine Roux, who as a paradox of Machiavellian incompetence, seems a little over the top.

On the whole, Roth shines light on the prejudices people have about one another, and reminds us of the devastating effect they can have.Four strong stars for both adult readers and mature younger readers, who will benefit from Roth's insight as they make choices that will affect both their lives and the lives of others.I plan to follow up by reading Roth's American Pastoral.

P.S.This was my first Amazon Kindle book.I enjoyed the reading experience and look forward to reading many other books on this handy device.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece
The HUMAN STAIN is one of the most rewarding novels of our time.It represents the verybest of contemporay fiction. I cannot add to all of the excllent commentaries, except to urge you to read the novel. ... Read more

10. The Ghost Writer
by Philip Roth
Paperback: 192 Pages (1995-08-01)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$7.90
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679748989
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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The Ghost Writer introduces Nathan Zuckerman in the 1950s, a budding writer infatuated with the Great Books, discovering the contradictory claims of literature and experience while an overnight guest in the secluded New England farmhouse of his idol, E. I. Lonoff.

At Lonoff's, Zuckerman meets Amy Bellette, a haunting young woman of indeterminate foreign background who turns out to be a former student of Lonoff's and who may also have been his mistress. Zuckerman, with his active, youthful imagination, wonders if she could be the paradigmatic victim of Nazi persecution. If she were, it might change his life.

The first volume of the trilogy and epilogue Zuckerman Bound, The Ghost Writer is about the tensions between literature and life, artistic truthfulness and conventional decency—and about those implacable practitioners who live with the consequences of sacrificing one for the other.Amazon.com Review
A middle-aged writer recalls his younger self. At 23, NathanZuckerman has had four stories published and a small, flatteringSaturday Review up-and-coming-author profile (complete with aphoto of him playing with his ex-girlfriend's cat), which he purportsto scorn. As genuine and polite as he seems, Zuckerman has alreadyhurt his family with his autobiographical art and ruined hisrelationship with adultery and honesty. Visiting his reclusive idol(famed for his "blend of sympathy and pitilessness") in theBerkshires, the writer watches himself watching himself and attemptsto confront his work and life. Instead he finds himself turningreality into metafiction. A quote he happens upon from Henry Jamesonly complicates matters further: "We work in the dark--we dowhat we can--we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and ourpassion is our task. The rest is the madness of art." Events,however, have their revenge, weaving more out of control than even hecan anticipate or ask for. Philip Roth is the master of theuncomfortable, and his alter ego a connoisseur of self-involvement,self-loathing, and self-examination.("Virtuous reader, if youthink that after intercourse all animals are sad, try masturbating onthe daybed in E. I. Lonoff's study and see how you feel when it'sover.") ... Read more

Customer Reviews (38)

5-0 out of 5 stars Very well written and very interesting
It is a delight to read some books a second time, such as Philip Roth's books. A reviewer of The New York Times (Robert Towers) wrote: "I had only to read the two opening sentences to realize that I was once again in the hands of a superbly endowed storyteller." The episodes in Roth's novels and their language and flow of words make the rereading enjoyable. Some of Roth's longer sentences may remind readers of floating in the warm Caribbean, being lifted by a soft wave, returning to the calm, being lifted again, returning again, and then sliding comfortably onto dry land.
The Ghost Writer portrays the visit of a young, twentyish, Nathan Zuckerman, having successfully written some short stories, visiting a writer he admires, E. I. Lonoff, to learn from him and to get his patronage. Zuckerman, like Philip Roth himself, wrote a short story (Roth wrote novels) in which he shows the worst side of Jews. True, what he depicts happens also to non-Jews, but the narration embarrasses Jews. Zuckerman's father is outraged. Roth presents both sides of this issue and E. I. Lonoff's reaction.
Zuckerman meets a young girl at the Lonoffs and is attracted to her, but she, so it seems, is interested in breaking up the Lonoffs' marriage and becoming E. I. Lonoff's wife. Zuckerman imagines that the girl is really the famous Ann Frank, and he imagines, ghost writes, a tale of her adventures in his mind.
The story has other interesting subplots, including a depiction of the tensions that exist for writers between the life of literature and reality.

4-0 out of 5 stars Short, Dense, Rewarding
This is the first of Philip Roth's Zuckerman novels and is my first exposure to him.This novel is very short yet it took me quite a while to read it.I was very interested and engaged but I found that I needed to read it in small chunks and absorb it.

Roth packs this short novel with a number of themes and explores a number of ideas.This is a very dense novella and very rewarding.

It is written as a flashback and concerns a visit of promising writer, Nathan Zuckerman to the home of one of his literary idols, EI Lonoff who prefers to be called Manny.Besides Zuckerman and Lonoff, the other main characters are Lonoff's wife and a young student of Lonoff's who is staying there.

Of this very simple plot, Roth weaves so much more.

I definitely recommend this.It's a very interesting piece of work.

4-0 out of 5 stars The Ghost Writer
This is the first book I've read by Philip Roth and as an introduction, I would recommend it to anyone.

Nathan Zuckerman, a young writer in the beginning of his career, travels to and spends the night at his literary idol's secluded farmhouse. Divided into four parts,the novel opens with a cozy night spent at the writer's house, showing Zuckerman and Lonoff's first meeting and awkward initial "getting to know you" conversation. By the end of the night, they confide in each other like old friends.

Throughout the remainder of the book, Zuckerman investigates and imagines much of what led him to this place (in life and in his burgeoning friendship). In addition, he assesses and confronts his ideas about the older people, respected people, in his life such as his father, Lonoff, and a respected judge and friend of the family Leopold Wapter (in what has to be one of the strangest and more hilarious letters I've read). Some of these people are his idols and some of them merely his "superiors." By the close of the novel, Zuckerman emerges as a man who has taken his idols "down a peg" and now views them more as equals to be questions and scrutinized.

Throughout the second half of the book is also the story of the young woman Zuckerman meets at Lonoff's house, Amy, and her background as a Jewish immigrant of unknown origins. Zuckerman goes so far as to imagine (or maybe not, it's unclear) that Amy is actually Anne Frank, surviving and living under an assumed name in the United States. While this story thread seems a bit out of left field, it certainly doesn't detract from the overall story. Indeed, it adds some interesting hinges on which Zuckerman makes his final assessment of Lonoff at the close of the book.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth
The Ghost Writer is a slim book of impressive complexity. In it we are introduced to Nathan Zuckerman, a Roth alter ego who is temporarily living with E.I. Lonoff, a distinguished writer who he reveres, along with Lonoff's wife and assistant Amy up in the Berkshires. Zuckerman, of course, is questioning the purpose of his Jewish identity, which has gotten him into hot water back at home in New Jersey, and is trying to find his own voice (literary and otherwise) in the world around him. The novel's thin plot is ostensibly about him coming of age in this secluded environment, and wanting to become a son to Lonoff and a lover to Amy, who just might be the internationally mourned Holocaust victim Anne Frank herself.

Roth's prose here is up there with him best- his confidence of tone in writing pessimism, humor, hope, ambivalence, and despair all mixed up together is staggering. He can sweep you from the streets of Newark to the wooded mountains of upstate New York and through the freezing barracks of Bergen Belsen as only a master can. Also masterful is the multiplicity of themes here. This is a book about creating fiction from the reality, inspiration from lust, and how our past hangups create our present. For me personally the book is about escapism, how each character is constantly fighting for leave the burden of their pasts in order to answer their literary higher calling, with Anne Frank (the eponymous Ghost Writer herself perhaps?), a worldwide symbol of guilt and sadness, bewitchingly holding everyone back until a final act of independence. I greatly look forward to Roth's other Zuckerman books.

5-0 out of 5 stars Amy Is Anne
There's no question, after reading Roth beautifully depict how Anne escaped the death camp and lived among the unsuspecting afterward.Anne reading her own diary alone is a startling piece of writing -- it nearly seriously transcends the imagination and creates the real.Yes, Zuckerman does not see the tattoo on Amy's arm or a scar where she might have burned it off, but that may be Zuckerman's general lack of sensitivity -- a theme of the book.Almost too brilliant a book for words ... ... Read more

11. Patrimony : A True Story
by Philip Roth
Paperback: 240 Pages (1996-06-03)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$4.75
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679752935
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Patrimony, a true story, touches the emotions as strongly as anything Philip Roth has ever written. Roth watches as his eighty-six-year-old father—famous for his vigor, charm, and his repertoire of Newark recollections—battles with the brain tumor that will kill him. The son, full of love, anxiety, and dread, accompanies his father through each fearful stage of his final ordeal, and, as he does so, discloses the survivalist tenacity that has distinguished his father's long, stubborn engagement with life.Amazon.com Review
With the honesty of a skilled biographer and the sensitivityof a caring son, Roth chronicles the life of his father, Herman, inthis gripping work which won a 1991 National BookCritics Circle Award. Roth holds little back in describing hisfather as a man of rare intensity and fierce independence who, forbetter or worse, stood by his principles and held others to his ownrigorous standards. Writes Roth, "His obsessive stubbornness--hisstubborn obsessiveness--had very nearly driven my mother to abreakdown in her final years." Frank throughout, Roth calls hisfather "a pitiless realist, but I wasn't his offspring fornothing, and I could be pretty realistic, too." ... Read more

Customer Reviews (15)

5-0 out of 5 stars A moving memoir of a parent's final days.
I gave this book five stars, not because it ranks among the greatest of literary creations but because it is just about perfect in what it attempts to do.It is not a novel, it is a personal memoir, perhaps the most personal that Roth has ever written.It depicts the final deterioration and ultimate death of Roth's father Herman, and Roth's role in functioning as his personal caregiver.In this book, the caustic and biting Rothian wit that has come to characterize Roth's writing is gone.In its place is a moving personal memoir.There is no attempt to sanctify or even sanitize Herman Roth.He is depicted as a stubborn, difficult, and at times nasty man.Yet he is Roth's father and Roth loves him.And even though Herman Roth has executed an advance directive ordering that no extraordinary measures be taken to keep him alive, his son finds that when the responsibility falls on him to let the plug be pulled, it is not that easy.The only thing I have read that surpasses this as an account of someone's final days and hours is Tolstoy's "The Death of Ivan Ilyich,"and that is no mean comparison.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Real Roth?
Roth's very moving account of his father's passing could serve as a model for the treatment of our aging parents.Despite the subject, the story lacks even a hint of the maudlin.I loved his rant about trying to buy a good cantaloupe.What a writer!!

5-0 out of 5 stars Delivered in great (newe condition) on time...
As promised, the paperbook was in new and perfect condition and arrived in a very timely manner.This is a side of Roth not revealed in his fiction.No sarcasm here, no satire, just a sympathetic and moving account of how he saw his father through his final days with caring, humor, and love.

4-0 out of 5 stars Patrimony but not Matrimony!
I like Philip Roth as an author. This book is really a tribute to his father not so much his mother. It seems that he was closer to his father, Herman Roth who he calls the true Bard of Newark, New Jersey. While his son, Philip Roth, has continued to become one of America's top authors and was almost short of winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2005, Roth is hardly known or as popular as he should be. This book tells the story of how he copes and deals with his father's illness and death. I wished he would explain more about his relationship with his mother because I think it's key to explaining the troubles in his relationships with women. Twice divorced Roth lives alone in rural Connecticut. At the time of this book, he was with British actress Claire Bloom. Sadly, the relationship dissolved. Roth's own relationships with his brother and nephews are never really expanded or explained. Roth is quite a literary figure maybe a giant but he has problems which most literary geniuses have in their own personal life. Roth's loving book is a tribute to his father, Herman Roth, who was his greatest inspiration. The photo of him and his two sons on the cover was taken at Bradley Beach where Newark Jewish residents rented cottages or bungalows down by Bradley Beach in New Jersey during the hot summer months. I like Roth and have studied and read his books. He can make you feel pride about being from New Jersey in his works.

4-0 out of 5 stars This is a difficult book with an extraordinary writing
There is something sad, something utterly painful about book tributes to fathers. When reading Wiesel's "Night", Franzen's "My Father's Brain" or Roth's "Patrimony", one comes to grips with a difficult reality, of the unnatural heart ache and grief that accompany aging and what they do in the mean time to the father-son relationship.

"Patrimony" offers a glimpse of this aging, of the deterioration of the body. As one reads, one physically partakes into the burden of loosing a loved one, of facing the difficult decisions of what comes next, of recalling memories, of learning to struggle, of the heartbreaking doctor appointments...Philip Roth never holds back. He doesn't protect from the sorrow, or grief. He tells his life's story with honesty and shameless openness that requires not only brilliant clarity, but also the strength of love, love of the kind passed down from a good father to a worthy son.

This is a difficult book with an extraordinary writing and should be considered by anyone who has, is or will ever care for an aging parent.

- by Simon Cleveland
... Read more

12. The Facts: A Novelist's Autobiography
by Philip Roth
Paperback: 208 Pages (1997-01-28)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$8.06
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679749055
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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The Facts is the unconventional autobiography of a writer who has reshaped our idea of fiction—a work of compelling candor and inventiveness, instructive particularly in its revelation of the interplay between life and art.

Philip Roth concentrates on five episodes from his life: his secure city childhood in the thirties and forties; his education in American life at a conventional college; his passionate entanglement, as an ambitious young man, with the angriest person he ever met (the "girl of my dreams" Roth calls her); his clash, as a fledgling writer, with a Jewish establishment outraged by Goodbye, Columbus; and his discovery, in the excesses of the sixties, of an unmined side to his talent that led him to write Portnoy's Complaint.

The book concludes surprisingly—in true Rothian fashion—with a sustained assault by the novelist against his proficiencies as an autobiographer. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (6)

4-0 out of 5 stars Not quite "The Facts"
Roth disarms his critics by getting his alter ego, Zuckerman, to comment.He concentrates of key elements of his life, and is particularly candid in his comments on his first wife and his response to her death.I felt a little sorry for the Boston University senior who got a few brief comments.She failed to set his imagination alight I suppose.
I am not a fan but the clarity of the writing and the astute observations of himself and others make this a fine read for anyone who find human interaction intriguing.

4-0 out of 5 stars A good book, but only of interest to those familiar with his work
Philip Roth is undoubtably one of the 20th centuries best authors. He is also a fairly interesting figure and much of his best work is highly autobiographical...

as such, it is inevitable that people are interested in the "truth" of his life and what really happened. Roth obliges here, mostly, giving us an account of his life (only up until the publication of Portnoy's Complaint though) that seems quite true, but written in a way that feels novelistic and as if Roth was writing in the voice of another character. Then he bookends the autobiography with his fictional counter part, Zuckerman, commenting on the text and pondering the nature of truth, autobiography, etc.

This is a good book, but at then end of the day its not interesting to anyone who hasn't read the Zuckerman books, Portnoy's Complaint and his other autobiographical books. Its nice to get an account of what he drew on exactly, but only if you've read those books.

5-0 out of 5 stars By this time a 'small part 'of the 'Facts' A larger 'summing- up' now in order
In the years since this book was published Roth has written at least three - major works, and a number of others. He has also gone through a life- threatening serious illness, a high publicity marriage, and a nasty two- sided confessional divorce. He has also gone through a lot of time by himself dedicatedly adding to the 'oeuvre'.
The 'Facts' then as it tells of Roth's early life, first marriage, problematic relation to the Jewish community, is only one part of the story.
'The Facts' isa very good book but for those like myself who have read very much Roth it is a small and partial work.
One would like to see a kind of 'summing up work' from him in which he discusses his overall conception of himself and development as a writer, his sense of where he truly belongs in the Literary tradition, his feeling about the whole 'meaning' of his life when obviously the 'personal side' does not seem very successful, his sense of his relation to American, Jewish and overall human history.

5-0 out of 5 stars Not Just The Facts
Leave it to Phillip Roth to take a traditional autobiography and turn it on its ear.The book begins with a brief letter from Roth to his fictional character Zuckerman, explaining that he (Roth) has written a brief autobiography and wanted to get Zuckerman's input.Then comes the autobiography, a concise version of Roth's history focusing primarily upon his childhood, his college years, and his marriage to a woman who he later describes as his "nemesis."Finally the book ends with Zuckerman's comments on Roth's text.Just the thought of it is enough to make you laugh, but there is value in this approach.Roth clearly feels uneasy discussing himself, and so the fictional character allows him to break down his own personality without appearing overly self-indulgent.This final Zuckerman section is very insightful and alleviated my doubts that perhaps Phillip Roth does not understand himself as well as he would like to think.

'The Facts' is a quick read and goes a long way in illustrating how a nice Jewish boy from a good family in the suburbs of New Jersey could find enough angst in his life to eventually line his desk with a Pulitzer Prize, two PEN/Faulkner Awards, and a National Book Award.I would recommend it to anyone who has enjoyed anything by this master of the literary realm.(If you haven't yet read any of his novels, try Portnoy's Complaint, American Pastoral, or Goodbye Columbus... but you really can't go wrong, everything he's written is terrific.)

5-0 out of 5 stars An Autobiography Unlike Any Other
In this short, fascinating book Roth narrates the story of his life up to the publication of "Portnoy's Complaint."Then, in a long epilogue, Nathan Zuckerman (Roth's fictional alter-ego) critiques Roth's account, pointing out omissions and biases and attacking the "public relations tone" of the manuscript.If you have ever felt the sting of your outraged conscience, or laughed at how you trip over your own feet intellectually, Roth is the author for you. ... Read more

13. Philip Roth: Novels 1993-1995: Operation Shylock / Sabbath's Theater (Library of America)
by Philip Roth
Hardcover: 832 Pages (2010-09-02)
list price: US$35.00 -- used & new: US$17.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 159853078X
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The Library of America's definitive edition of Philip Roth's collected works continues with two novels that heralded the beginning of a more than decade-long creative explosion-one remarkable in an older writer and hailed by critics as unparalleled in American literary history. In the diabolically imaginative Operation Shylock (1993), a character named Philip Roth encounters a look-alike who claims Roth's identity and who tours Israel promoting a bizarre reverse exodus of the Jews-proselytizing the "real" Roth is intent on stopping, even if it means impersonating his impersonator.
"This splendidly wicked book" is how the critic Frank Kermode described Sabbath's Theater (1995), a comic masterpiece of epic proportions whose gargantuan hero, Mickey Sabbath, grieving the loss of his unsurpassable mistress, embarks on a turbulent journey into his past besieged by the ghosts of those who loved and hated him most.
... Read more

14. Philip Roth: Novels 1973-1977, The Great American Novel, My Life as a Man, The Professor of Desire (Library of America)
by Philip Roth
Hardcover: 906 Pages (2006-10-19)
list price: US$35.00 -- used & new: US$19.45
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1931082960
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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This third volume in The Library of America's definitive edition of Philip Roth's collected works presents three markedly different novels that together trace a crucial period in the bold evolution of one of America's indispensable novelists. Surely the funniest novel ever written about baseball, The Great American Novel (1973) turns our national pastime into unfettered picaresque farce.The cast of improbable characters includes: Gil Gamesh, the pitcher who actually tried to kill the umpire; John Baal, the ex-con first baseman, "The Babe Ruth of the Big House," who never hit a home run sober; and the House Un-American Activities Committee. My Life as a Man (1974), Roth's most blistering novel, presents the treacherous world of Strindberg nearly a century later in the story of a fierce marital tragedy of obsession and blindness and desperate need. The Professor of Desire (1977)-the novel that prompted Milan Kundera to proclaim Roth "a great historian of modern eroticism"-follows an adventurous man of intelligence and feeling into and out of the tempting wilderness of erotic possibility. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

4-0 out of 5 stars Novels, 1973-1977
In 1969, Philip Roth published Portnoy's Complaint, a novel which would go on to receive accolades, notoriety, and critical and commercial success. Considered obscene, it nevertheless sold over three million copies in its first five years of publication. Roth, only in his early thirties, was rich enough that he was now able to write whatever he wanted whenever he wanted without the worry of financial restraints. Perhaps as a result of this freedom, the 70s was, for Roth, a decade of experimentation which saw the political satire Our Gang, which heavily criticised President Nixon and the bizarre, Kafka-inspired novella The Breast, which had David Kepesh turn into a massive female breast. It was also responsible for the instigation of Roth's heavily introspective period, where he began to examine the struggle between the writer and his works, the writer and his readers, and the writer and the writer. The Library of America publication of Roth's three novels in the years 1973 - 1977 include The Great American Novel, My Life as a Man and The Professor of Desire.

The Great American Novel is a satire, and a celebration, of baseball - that greatest of all American past-times. The novel concerns the now forgotten Patriot League, the third national baseball league that operated up until the end of the Second World War, when it was found the league was infested with Communists. This novel is Roth at his most fanciful, his most playful, his most exotic. It is undisciplined in a way not often seen in his other novels. The novel is full of puns, wordplay, references to literature, jokes - both subtle and obvious - and more. There is a character named John Baal, and his grandfather's name is Base, as an example. The Great American Novel is overwhelming for people who are not familiar with baseball, because the allusions and references to players and the statistics and terminology used, comprise a majority of the text. For baseball enthusiasts, this novel is tremendous, but for those who do not understand the game or do not care for the game, there is little here beyond the jokes to keep the reader interested.

My Life as a Man introduces a famous Roth character, Nathan Zuckerman. Yet it is not the Nathan Zuckerman who would go on to feature in nine novels, from the great American Pastoral to the slim The Prague Orgy. Rather he is a creation of Peter Tarnopol, a struggling writer going through a very difficult phase of his life. This novel is split into three sections, the first two being short stories featuring Zuckerman. The third and longest by far is Tarnopol's, who has written the Zuckerman stories to attempt to understand his own romantic predicaments. Tarnopol's life runs a very close parallel to Philip Roth, with Tarnopol's nightmare marriage to Maureen mimicking Roth's own disaster with Margaret Martinson. Tarnopol is witty, creative and intelligent, and utterly, utterly lost. The novel jumps back and forth between Tarnopol's marriage to Maureen and his subsequent divorce and new girlfriend, Susan. He is obsessed with the woman who has, he believes, destroyed him in all the ways that matter. He laments the death of the confident, successful young man that he was, the man who could write, who could charm, who could hold his head high. Now, bouncing between Susan, an astonishingly submissive woman who lives, it seems, to serve Tarnopol, and his massive feelings of guilt surrounding his marriage and divorce.

For all that Roth is criticised - or praised - for writing consistently about himself, book after book, it is with Peter Tarnopol that Roth has shed the most layers of fiction. Ordinarily Roth covers his own life with addendum's, digressions, distractions and additions, until the novel that remains is inspired by, not a mirror image of, his life. Not so with Tarnopol. Perhaps because of this Roth is able to write of Tarnopol's breakdown and rebuilding of self with such relentless accuracy. He spares us no details, from the horrible, pathetic negative sides of himself, to the jubilation and hope that comes from being free of his wife. Tarnopol does not come across as poorly as Maureen, but he is clearly a flawed, disturbing personality. And yet, the charm and intelligence remains, which drives the story forward. There is a sense that once the dirt and muck is wiped away from Tarnopol's life he will return to a - heavily modified, certainly - shining version of his younger self, wiser now, older now, less cocky but just as appealing. This is the longest and perhaps best of the three novels.

The Professor of Desire covers a lot of similar territory to My Life as a Man, and in that respect it pales somewhat against the larger magnificence of the second book of the three. Taken completely independently, surely this novel would have managed to stand on its own, yet immediately following My Life as a Man only hurts the text. We go over another disastrous marriage, another breakdown, another psychiatrist, another rebuilding, which all comes across as rather samey. When the novel veers away from this well-worn territory, it does so in a way that is engaging.

Ignoring the difficulties of David Kepesh's - who was last seen in Roth's novella, The Breast - marriage to Helen, The Professor of Desire offers a sad, sympathetic portrayal of Kepesh's father, who has recently lost his wife to cancer. Abe Kepesh follows Roth's standard portrayal of the strong father, the emotional father, the father who believes in getting things right and cannot understand when others fail to do so.

Near the end of the novel, Kepesh travels to Prague with his partner, Claire, to see where Kafka grew up. They visit his grave and David even visits the prostitute who was rumoured to serve Kafka during his short life of astonishing creativity. These adventures follow the heavily literary theme that pervades The Great American Novel with its jokes and laughter, and My Life as a Man with its reverence for the written word.

There are no overt thematic links between the three works. The last two novels are linked in that their plots are remarkably similar, but that is all. Instead, it is the appreciation, examination and perhaps even obsession with literature that carries the works as a whole. Roth has always used the discussion of literature as a way of highlighting the aspects of his own work, but these three novels rise above even that. Without literature, it seems, these characters would be nothing because they are literature. David Kepesh and Peter Tarnopol, when confronted with something that does not conform to the rigorous motifs of literature, are completely dumbfounded, unable to do anything more than watch as their lives are reduced to rubble. And yet, of course, it is literature that saves them. Roth went on to write novels and regain his sanity and confidence, and so to did Kepesh and Tarnopol.

Roth's novels between 1973 and 1977 are solid works of art by a literary master who was not yet a master of his craft. The Great American Novel shows a writer trying his hand at whatever appeals and doing it well, while the last two novels display a talent coming to grips with the themes and obsessions that he knows. Roth went on to develop these interests with a surety of hand and a confidence of art that is perhaps unrivalled by any other American author, which makes these novels interesting doubly - once because they show talent in gestation, and twice because they remain strong, consistent and coherent works of art.

5-0 out of 5 stars Very highly recommended for both academic and community library American Literature collections.
The third volume of The Library of America's definitive edition of Philip Roth's collected works, Philip Roght Novels 1973-1977 contains "The Great American Novel" (1973), "My Life as a Man" (1974) and "The Professor of Desire" (1977) under one hardbound cover, with an inset ribbon bookmark. From the wry, farcical baseball humor in "The Great American Novel" that builds up to the intercession of the House Un-American Activities Committee, to the cruel marital tragedy and treachery of "My Life as a Man", to the intriguing story of a smart and adventurous man pushing the bounds of erotic possibility in "The Professor of Desire", each classic work explores a different facet of the subtext constantly running beneath the human condition. Very highly recommended for both academic and community library American Literature collections. ... Read more

15. I Married a Communist
by Philip Roth
Paperback: 336 Pages (1999-11-02)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$4.30
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Asin: 0375707212
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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I Married a Communist is the story of the rise and fall of Ira Ringold, a big American roughneck who begins life as a teenage ditch-digger in 1930s Newark, becomes a big-time 1940s radio star, and is destroyed, as both a performer and a man, in the McCarthy witchhunt of the 1950s.

In his heyday as a star—and as a zealous, bullying supporter of "progressive" political causes—Ira marries Hollywood's beloved silent-film star, Eve Frame. Their glamorous honeymoon in her Manhattan townhouse is shortlived, however, and it is the publication of Eve's scandalous bestselling exposé that identifies him as "an American taking his orders from Moscow."

In this story of cruelty, betrayal, and revenge spilling over into the public arena from their origins in Ira's turbulent personal life, Philip Roth—who Commonweal calls the "master chronicler of the American twentieth century—has written a brilliant fictional protrayal of that treacherous postwar epoch when the anti-Communist fever not only infected national politics but traumatized the intimate, innermost lives of friends and families, husbands and wives, parents and children.Amazon.com Review
Iron Rinn (né Ira Ringold) is a self-educated radio actor, married to a spoilt, rags-to-riches beauty, silent-film star Eve Frame (née ChaveFromkin).He is a Communist, and a "sucker for suffering," locked into thecycle of violence from which he has emerged. She has risen by assiduousimitation of what is "classy"--which seems to include a wide swathe ofanti-Semitism--and ultimately denounces her husband as a Soviet spook. Andwho would be the narrator of this McCarthy-era meltdown? None other thanPhilip Roth's longtime alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman, who learns the fulltragedy several decades later, owing to a chance encounter with Ira'sbrother: "I'm the only person living who knows Ira's story," 90-year-oldMurray Ringold tells Nathan, "you're the only person still living who caresabout it."

Characteristically, Nathan also discovers that his own story was bound upwith the blacklistings and ruined careers of the immediate postwar period.It seems that he had been tainted by his association with theRingolds--Murray was in fact his high-school teacher--and was denied theFulbright scholarship he deserved. "They had you down for Ira's nephew,"Murray tells Nathan. "The FBI didn't always get everything right." Roth'sacerbic style and keen eye for emotional detail goes to the heart of thismoment of high tragedy in which the American dream was damaged beyondrepair.--Lisa Jardine ... Read more

Customer Reviews (52)

4-0 out of 5 stars Complex Rebuttal to Bloom's Tell All On Their Divorce
Philip Roth could have written a book just like Clair Bloom's, where he went after her with a vengance and did nothing else of any literary value.However, unlike Bloom, he is a writer so instead he did something else.He wrapped his story and Bloom's around the McCarthy Era so that the novel is one continuous act of betrayal.There is the betrayal of friends and co-workers to stay off the blacklist.Then there are the betrayals going on in one's personal life.

One thing that Roth captures especially well is the often impossible relationship between stepchild and stepparent.In real life it was Bloom's daughter Anna Steiger, a minor opera singer, who gets blamed for everything whereas in the novel it is Sylphid, an aspiring harpist, who is the stepdaughter from hell.This material is the most engrossing in the book, closely followed by Claire Bloom/Eve Frame's portrayal as someone who can never really get off the stage and stop performing.Her histrionic marital scenes are really something and if they did in fact occur, I would have loved to have been there!

Of course, in the novel, the actress wife gets an abortion upon her daughter's demands for same.This despite the fact that her husband wants the baby.I suspect this may have been added into the story to portray the stepdaughter in the evilest possible light.As a device for creating hatred, it really succeeds.

Where Roth stumbles is being ponderous and tedious over the actual events of the McCarthy Era with blow by blow descriptions of the blacklisting and red baiting.I think he could have been more economical with this material and probably a really good editor would have cut a good deal of it.This is material many of us are very familiar with already as it is well covered in the arts.So we don't need to have Roth pound it into us.

On the plus side, when I got tired of reading this in print, I listened instead to the audio version as narrated by the late Ron Silver.Silver narrated 3 of Roth's books and did a superb job on all three of them.The other two are AMERICAN PASTORAL and THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA.In my opinion, those two novels are Roth's 5 star novels.It is too bad Silver wasn't able to do all of Roth's novels because he captured the feel, texture and sound of Roth's characters so perfectly.Unfortunately, Silver died in 2009 so it is not like this can be corrected now.Silver makes the tedious parts of this novel interesting plus makes the dramatic parts of involving Bloom/Frame positively sing.If you are going to try the book, I recommend you listen to Silver's narration of it.

5-0 out of 5 stars Reading World of _I Married A Communist_
The readingworld of books that affect the reader's sense of being in that world (like Pereira Declares [Sostiene Pereira] by Antonio Tabucchi) helps readers to understand their personal world. Philip Roth's Nathan Zuckerman grew up in a time that mirrors the time since 9/11 [2001-2008] as a difficult time for thoughtfulness and inquiry. The readingworld of I Married a Communist (1998) illuminates the early 1950's, an era of witch hunt and blacklist. Robert Kelley in the NYTBR observed:

This book draws strength from that terrible time, a time that perhaps was our Trojan War, when we first learned, as a people, to give way to brutality, innuendo and deceit. Roth explores our expedients and tragedies with a masterly, often unnerving, blend of tenderness, harshness, insight and wit. "I Married a Communist" is a gripping novel, memorable, its characters hateful and adorable by turns.


The readingworld includes:

The Late George Apley by John P. Marquand.1938.

Howard Fast, Citizen Tom Paine. [ banned in high school libraries in New York City.]1943.

Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason.1795.

Norman Corwin (well, radio, and more).
On a Note of Triumph.

Arch Oboler.

Himan Brown.

Paul Rhymer .

Carlton E. Morse.

William N. Robson.

Focus (1945) and Death of a Salesman (1949) by Arthur Miller.

The Naked and the Dead. (1948) Norman Mailer.

The Young Lions. (1948) Irwin Shaw.

Shylock [Merchant of Venice], Richard III, Othello, Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth. Shakespeare.

Anatomy of Melancholy. (1621) Richard Burton.

Red Channels. (1950).
And the general mood of the writer/narrator is dislike of women; toxic.

5-0 out of 5 stars Tell All
Noting the lukewarm reviews for this book, it must been noted the high standard Philip Roth's works are held in comparison.With this in mind, I feel that "I Married a Communist" ranks in the upper echelon of Roth's works.Had I not read so many of his other books previously, I may not have been able to appreciate this book and its coarse context.It was a daunting task to attempt such a novel which produced a commendable result.

The title "I Married a Communist" is derived from "tell all" book penned from the perspective of the wife of Ira "Iron Rinn" Ringold.The story of Iron Rinn is told by his brother Murray to Nathan Zuckerman, who is somewhat of an adopted son to Iron Rinn.Like many of Roth's characters, Iron Rinn searches for a sense of self that eludes him.Though communism maintains a sense of focus, he diverts onto other paths which lead away from his social commitments.

The most notable diversion is the marriage to Eve Frame.With this marriage comes Frame's manipulative Eve's daughter Sylphid.Sylphid seemingly only serve the purpose of ruining things for her mother including her marriage.The marital situation is a veiled reference to Roth's first marriage that is disguised by some of the other plots in the book.

Roth mixes in social and politcal opinions throughout the book, and even proves to be enlightening with some of the facts that mixed into this work of fiction.On a personal level, I enjoyed reading parts of the story that ventured into Northwest Indiana.Having grown up in that area, I feel that Roth captured the essence of the region in those passages.Even his physical descriptions were impeccable.

Roth's novels are paced like a freight train that is gaining more speed, running further away from the means of control.It is obvious that the main character is headed for a crash, yet the reader is still anxious to see how it all falls apart.With so main weighted themes in "I Married a Communist", the crash is not a let down.

4-0 out of 5 stars Good political discourse on art
The plot is mainly set in the 1950s when Joseph McCarthy and the rest of the country was on the warpath to flush out as many "Reds" as they could. The novel is pretty hefty and a joy to read. The most interesting aspect of it is that the narrative is driven mostly by a long-running conversation between Nathan and his old high school English teacher, Murray Ringold, that recounts past conversations and statements and describes the other characters' moods, attitudes and actions.

"You want a lost cause to fight for? Then fight for the word. Not the high-flown word, not the inspiring word, not the pro-this and anti-that word, not the word that advertises to the respectable that you are a wonderful, admirable, compassionate person on the side of the downtrodden and the oppressed. No, for the word that tells the literate few condemned to live in America that you are on the side of the word!" (218)

What Leo's character says about artists affecting an untouchable virtuousness and repeating empty slogans spoke to me with a truthfulness that I wished I had been told earlier. Art in the service of a higher calling no longer accepts interpretation or allows for playful imagination; it talks down to the audience and gives no room for critique.

Another good point that Leo makes is that the artist should transcend the easy, cliched feelings that so many people share with each other day in and day out.

"As an artist the nuance is your task. Your task is not to simplify. Even should you choose to write in the simplest way, à la Hemingway, the task remains to impart the nuance, to elucidate the complication, to imply the contradiction. Not to erase the contradiction, not to deny the contradiction, but to see where, within the contradiction, lies the tormented human being. To allow for the chaos, to let it in." (222)

Overall, a well thought out narrative that teaches and inspires the reader to use his brain for once.

5-0 out of 5 stars You Will Not Be Disappointed
This is a big brassy book about a big brassy man.Roth explores the insidious horror of the McCarthy era without flinching.He also has no problem discussing the shallowness of the time, whether one leans politically to the right or left.

Many of the book's characters are caught up in the winds of an era rather than being self-thinkers and examining their own core values and external truths.Isn't this the way in most eras?

Sometimes, I wasn't sure whether to laugh or take Mr.Roth's words as literal.That's part of the joy of reading this book.The reader can be as irreverent as he or she chooses, or not! ... Read more

16. Zuckerman Bound: A Trilogy and Epilogue 1979-1985: The Ghost Writer / Zuckerman Unbound / The Anatomy Lesson / The Prague Orgy (Library of America #175)
by Philip Roth
Hardcover: 700 Pages (2007-09-20)
list price: US$35.00 -- used & new: US$20.98
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1598530119
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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For the last half century, the novels of Philip Roth have re-energized American fiction and redefined its possibilities, leading the critic Harold Bloom to proclaim Roth "our foremost novelist since Faulkner." Roth's comic genius, his imaginative daring, his courage in exploring uncomfortable truths, and his assault on political, cultural, and sexual orthodoxies have made him one of the essential writers of our time. By special arrangement with the author, The Library of America continues the definitive edition of Roth's collected works.

This fourth volume presents the trilogy and epilogue that constitute Zuckerman Bound (1985), Roth's wholly original investigation into the unforeseen consequences of art-mainly in libertarian America and then, by contrast, in Soviet-suppressed Eastern Europe-during the latter half of the twentieth century.The Ghost Writer (1979) introduces Nathan Zuckerman in the 1950s, a budding writer infatuated with the Great Books, discovering the contradictory claims of literature and experience while an overnight guest in the secluded New England farmhouse of his literary idol, E. I. Lonoff. Zuckerman Unbound (1981) finds him far from Lonoff's domain-the scene is Manhattan as the sensationalizing 1960s are coming to an end. Zuckerman, in his mid-thirties, is suffering the immediate aftershock of literary celebrity. The high-minded protŽgŽ of E. I. Lonoff has become a notorious superstar. The Anatomy Lesson (1984) takes place largely in the hospital isolation ward that Zuckerman has made of his Upper East Side apartment. It is Watergate time, 1973, and to Zuckerman the only other American who seems to be in as much trouble as himself is Richard Nixon. Zuckerman, at forty, is beset with crippling and unexplained physical pain; he wonders if the cause might not be his own inflammatory work. In The Prague Orgy (1985), entries from Zuckerman's notebooks describing his 1976 sojourn among the outcast artists of Soviet-occupied Czechoslovakia reveal the major theme of Zuckerman Bound from a new perspective that provides the stinging conclusion to this richly ironic and intricately designed magnum opus. As an added feature, this volume publishes for the first time Roth's unproduced television screenplay for The Prague Orgy, featuring new characters and scenes that do not appear in the novella. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars A Great Meta Sequel
With the publication of his wildly successful and outrageously funny Portnoy's Complaint in 1969, Philip Roth formally entered the ranks of America's up and coming must-read literary stars. But it also opened a Pandora's box of issues having to do with the fact that Portnoy was depicted as explicitly Jewish, sexually obsessed, and that Roth's portrayal of Portnoy's Jewish family was much less than flattering.

America in 1969 remember, was culturally only a few years removed from Jewish quotas for medical and law school acceptances, and restricted country clubs, hotels and real estate. Years later Jon Stuart (who was 7 years old in 1969) would joke in a stage whispered "Is it good for the Jews?" but in 1969 this question was asked more seriously by American Jews still not entirely trusting of or comfortable living in a country that had refused admittance to thousands of would-be Jewish émigrés from Germany in the 40s.

Sixteen years later we have Zuckerman Bound, comprised of the three novels originally published separately: The Ghost Writer (1979), Zuckerman Unbound (1981), and The Anatomy Lesson (1983), and the novella The Prague Orgy (1969), in which Roth brilliantly addresses these issues of personal and artistic identity head-on. Nathan Zuckerman, the protagonist throughout all four books is clearly Roth's alter ego, and Zuckerman's published book, Carnovsky, (Roth's Portnoy's Complaint) succeeds commercially and foments conflict between Zuckerman and his father, brother and a raft of father surrogates.

Is Roth's hilarious but incisive depiction of these Jewish characters a matter of artistic integrity or cultural betrayal?He could have left the question unanswered after writing Portnoy.He could have moved on to the next book and left it well enough alone.Instead, over the course of at least these four books, he explores the issue directly and he does so in what I think is a most powerful way, by going to the meta-level: the story about the story about the story....In this case Roth's surrogate, Zuckerman is himself facing these very dilemma(s).

The issues of cultural/artistic identity are developed progressively through the four books with the father-son conflict theme introduced in the first novel where Zuckerman's father pleas with him not to publish a short story exposing the family's scandalous conflict between the family's black sheep nephew and his aunt over an inheritance.

In the second book, the theme is extended to include Zuckerman's brother's accusation that the publication of Carnofsky caused their father's death with its insulting portrayal of Carnovsky's mother.

In The Anatomy Lesson, Zuckerman's struggle is with his two father surrogates, Appel, the Jewish literary critic and self-appointed defender of the Jewish people against the infidel Zuckerman, and later, Mr. Freytag, his college roommate's father.

Finally, in The Prague Orgy, as these themes are air-lifted into the state controlled communist regime of 1976 Czechoslovakia, the intriguing notion is introduced of the writer as spy on his own life and that of others in his life. Talk about the "meta level." Here we have the ultimate self- referential burlesque of Kafka.Particularly emblematic here is the hilariously macabre vignette of the Czech writer who agreed to spy on himself and to write reports for the state on his own life for his police informant friend because the friend was not a good writer:

"I said, `Blecha, I will follow myself for you. I know what I do all day better than you, and I have nothing else to keep me busy. I will spy on myself and I will write it up, and you can submit it to them as your own.They will wonder how your rotten writing has improved overnight, but you just tell them you were sick.This way you won't have anything damaging on your record, and I can be rid of your company, you (expletive deleted).'Blecha was thrilled.He gave me half of what they paid him...."

In this fourth book, the whole matter of the rebellion from authority - the struggle between fathers and sons begun in the Ghost Writer and developed more in Zuckerman Unbound - (did he kill his own father?) takes on a whole new level when it is the state assuming the authority role through its censorship of literary work.

All of the above does not begin to do justice to Roth's first-rate authenticity in writing dialogue and creating characters, and most of all, the sheer hilarity with which he explores issues that go deeply into what it means to be human.

5-0 out of 5 stars Delivery note
I have not read this yet so am only commenting that the whole delivery porocess worked just fine

3-0 out of 5 stars Fame and Pain
Zuckerman is Roth's equivalent to that other 20th Century fictional alter-ego, Updike's Harry 'Rabbit' Angstrom. But while Updike's character is an American everyman, his average desires, inclinations, career and relationships drawn with the fine pen, the two inches of ivory of Updike's conventional East Coast suburbs; Roth's Zuckerman swings wildly through the American beserk on a roiling stream of consciousness that takes him from noble, high purpose striving writer in his early twenties, visiting his hero E.I. Lonoff, to wrecked, neurotic acclaimed (and reviled) man of letters in his forties.

Roth's Zuckerman books are perhaps his string of writing where the gap between the banks of life and art are at their narrowest. Zuckerman finds fame with his novel of Jewish sexual guilt (Carnovsky) and has to cope out with the fall out of that success - accosted on the bus, in the street, outside his appartment, by cranks, the media, people accusing him of being an anti Semitic Jew, his family accusing him of betraying their secrets.

Zuckerman's great contradiction - yearning for liberty, but recognising the innate drive towards inhibition and security leads to a fastinating portrayal of themes towards the middle and end of the trilogy plus coda. By middle age Zuckerman, wracked with pain, drugs and an emotional life more messy than Woody Allen's (a nice counterpoint, there, considering Allen's 1998 Roth-lite film 'Deconstructing Harry') decides his pursuit of literary greatness has lead to his unravelling and decides to train as a doctor. A ludicrous and comic plan that leads to an encounter with a pornographer, and a journey to the heart of darkness of the health system.

The coda, 'The Prague Orgy', is a fitting finale. Shorter than the others, a novella of some eighty pages, the scene changes to Communist Prague as Zuckerman travels there in a futile attempt to claim the manuscript of some Yiddish short stories for a Czech friend of his in New York. There he meets Olga, a trashy vamp of a woman, wife of the deceased artist, whose desperate plight forces Zuckerman to review his own precarious and turbulent liberty. He also gets a lecture from the Czech authorities who take a very different view of the value of culture and freedom to Zuckerman.

Overall, a fascinating portrait of a late 20th Century American literary celebrity. But what an ego! Roth, like Updike, thinks the importance of his own life is of such supreme magnitude that the whole world should take notice and listen. Roth is not Zuckerman, of course, but when he says things such as 'When there are banners across Manhattan calling for the return of Portnoy, I might act', you realise that he shares with his fictional creation a concern to write his own will on world. The great American novelists of this period -Bellow (gone), Roth and Updike (going, slowly) are all in this mould. There is a world outside their own neurosis, their own back problems, their own concerns with mortality. This world is glimpsed at in 'The Prague Orgy'. Roth also grasped this nettle during his late period flowering - The Human Stain, American Pastoral etc.. Were that he had discovered this external world earlier on in the Zuckerman trilogy.

5-0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended.
Philip Roth: Zuckerman Bound 1979-1985 is the Library of America's fourth volume of Philip Roth's collected works. Presenting "The Ghost Writer", "Zuckerman Unbound", "The Anatomy Lesson", "The Prague Orgy", and "The Prague Orgy: A Television Adaptation" by Philip Roth, along with a chronology and extensive notes that help illuminate context and nuances of the text, Philip Roth: Zuckerman Bound 1979-1985 is the ideal edition for literature students, libraries, and casual readers alike. The particularly memorable title story, Zuckerman Bound, is set at the close of the sensational 60's and follows popular writer Zuckerman as he struggles to cope with the aftershock of literary celebrity. Highly recommended.
... Read more

17. The Dying Animal (Movie Tie-In Edition) (Vintage International)
by Philip Roth
Paperback: 176 Pages (2008-07-22)
list price: US$12.95 -- used & new: US$7.23
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0307454886
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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David Kepesh is an eminent cultural critic and star lecturer at a New York college-as well as an articulate propagandist of the sexual revolution. For years he has made a practice of sleeping with adventurous female students while maintaining an aesthete's critical distance. But now that distance has been annihilated.

When he becomes involved with Consuela Castillo, the humblingly beautiful daughter of Cuban exiles, Kepesh finds himself dragged helplessly, bitterly, furiously into the quagmire of sexual jealousy and loss. In chronicling this descent, Philip Roth performs a breathtaking set of variations on the themes of eros and mortality, license and repression, selfishness and sacrifice. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (69)

3-0 out of 5 stars Skilled Writing but Depressing
I chose this novel because I'm interested in the topic of teacher-student relationships and the different perspectives of them in literature. This is the first book I've read by Philip Roth. Although he is obviously very skilled with words, I found that the story overall left me depressed. I never connected with the main character and during much of the book, I hated him. I understood his desire to be free as he was when he was younger and the restrictions he felt his age put on him. However, overall he seemed like a disgusting person who lacked any real heart. Leaving his son and feeling no remorse for it? He acted as if he had to take no responsibility for his actions whatsoever.

Not to mention the way he declared that love and marriage are some pits of hell and that no one on the earth could possibly be happy... he was just so arrogant in his opinions, it was stomach turning. And he didn't even love Consuela... even the one girl who fascinated him above all others, he still couldn't love her. He seems like a machine to me. The novel is of course well written, but the main character is the last person I would ever want to meet in life.

Has anyone read the novel "Disgrace" by J. M. Coetzee?I had just read that novel before this one, and it's funny because the main characters are like twins.They're both old men, university professors, have affairs with a student, and are even both named David.They both have very bitter outlooks on life, especially love, and if we could make literary characters interact with each other on deserted islands, they would find a long lost brother in each other.Maybe with the absence of women on the island, and given the uncontrollable lust they have so in common, they could create a homosexual chapter to add to their 1,000 young female conquests.Or maybe that's when they would finally find love.That's why they've been so disillusioned!They've been going after the wrong gender this whole time...

4-0 out of 5 stars The misery that comes your way is most likely to be self-generated.
Best line in the book:

Living in a country like ours, whose key documents are all about emancipation, all directed at guaranteeing individual liberty, living in a free system that is basically indifferent to how you behave as long as the behavior is lawful, the misery that comes your way is most likely to be self-generated!

4-0 out of 5 stars A good book about a dirty old man!
The Dying Animal is a fast-paced, interesting and well-written book about a dirty old man professor who repeatedly seduces his young art students in New York City.Finally he falls for one and shows some vulnerability.Although the concept of the book is rather creepy, I enjoyed the plot as well as the writing style.I read this book in two days on vacation and just soared through it because it was so interesting.I recommend it for a great vacation read!

For more book reviews and other posts of interest to readers and writers, please visit my Blogspot blog, Voracia: Goddess of Words.

5-0 out of 5 stars An excellent analysis of several subjects
This novel is filled with sex; all kinds of sex, including men fascinated by seeing a woman menstruating and kneeling before her and licking the blood that flows down her legs, a dying half paralyzed man, unable to recognize the people surrounding his bed, groping for a woman's breasts, a man who forever focuses on sex unable to do so when a woman is scarred or misses a limb or a breast. Yet, there is what the Supreme Court called "redeeming social values."
Roth is a supremely good writer. He portrays how an older man (62 when the affair began) has relations with an extremely beautiful Cuban girl from a wealthy well-bred family who is a third his age (24). The girl breaks up the relationship when the man fails to do something the reader may think he was right not doing. Yet, years later, the girl returns because of a traumatic event in her life.
Roth explores how and when the man, a college professor, seduces the females of his class, how his son hates him for leaving the son's mother for other younger women while he, the son, has his own adulterous relationship and, curiously, visits the home of his mistress to meet her parents and, as if he were a conventional suitor, to get their permission for the adultery. He describes the impact of the revolution of the 1960s upon the sex life in colleges and the after-effects decades later. He also examines how various characters fear and face death.

5-0 out of 5 stars Very pleased
Item was shipped promptly and arrived in condition that was advertised.Very pleased with this transaction! ... Read more

18. The Counterlife
by Philip Roth
Paperback: 336 Pages (1996-08-06)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$8.70
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679749047
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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The Counterlife is about people enacting their dreams of renewal and escape, some of them going so far as to risk their lives to alter seemingly irreversible destinies. Wherever they may find themselves, the characters of The Counterlife are tempted unceasingly by the prospect of an alternative existence that can reverse their fate.

Illuminating these lives in transition and guiding us through the book's evocative landscapes, familiar and foreign, is the miind of the novelist Nathan Zuckerman. His is the skeptical, enveloping intelligence that calculates the price that's paid in the struggle to change personal fortune and reshape history, whether in a dentist's office in suburban New Jersey, or in a tradition-bound English Village in Gloucestershire, or in a church in London's West End, or in a tiny desert settlement in Israel's occupied West Bank.Amazon.com Review
The saga of Henry and Nathan Zuckerman continues, 13 years afternovelist Nathan Zuckerman first appeared in Roth's 1974 effort, My Life as a Man. In TheCounterlife, the dentist Henry suffers an unsettling--and for Roth, apredictable--side effect to his heart medication: impotence, which leads himto undergo an ill-fated operation. The multi-layered plot line travels fromNew York to London to Israel, while the characters undergo a series ofsurprising transformations. In the words of Nathan, a change in one's lifecauses "a counterlife that is one's own anti-myth." It's vintageRoth. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (23)

4-0 out of 5 stars We can pretend to be anything we want.All it takes is impersonation.
Roth is a genius!He writes for us a book within a book.This is a collection of stories about two brothers: about death, about life, about love, about hope, and about our ability to dream and imagine our way to the life we desire, even if it isn't the life we're currently living.As Nathan Zuckerman writes to his wife, "We can pretend to be anything we want.All it takes is impersonation."

4-0 out of 5 stars A Wild, Wonderful Ride
This is Zuckerman Book # 5 although the first four are very short.I am reading them in order so I cannot yet put this in context of the 4 Zuckerman novels that follow.

It is divided into 5 sections and each one contradicts, redefines, rewinds or augments the previous.Without reading the book, I'm sure that sounds like a muddled description.

It's very difficult to write a review on this without spoiling aspects of it.The prose is vintage Roth, the plot plays are inventive, surprising and sometimes confusing.There is ultimate coherence but you have to pretty much read the entire novel to get all the connections.

Of course the arrogant, neurotic, sexual, impulsive, famous writer, Nathan Zuckerman is back as are some of his family.The novel very much dwells on being Jewish whether it be in America, England or Israel.He seems to represent all sides of what being Jewish is and what others think of Jews.Ultimately the novel is about what someone wants their life to be, what defines them and how they can change.

Perhaps this review is a bit confusing but the best summary is that Roth is at his inventive, funny and always surprising best in this novel.I defintiely recommend it but the first four Zuckerman installments should be read first.

5-0 out of 5 stars Roth's "Variations On a Theme"
This is the best novel I have read by Philip Roth (so far).It is unlike anything I have read by him before, or by many others, for that matter.When I finished it, I was reminded of a number of musical compositions called "Variations On a Theme By xxxxx), in which a composer takes a theme by another composer and then composes several variations on that theme.Here, however, the original theme is by Roth himself, so that Roth is writing variations on his own theme.

I don't like people who write reviews with spoilers, so I won't do that here, in that I won't reveal any crucial plot elements.However, I don't believe it would ruin any prospective reader's enjoyment to reveal the book's basic structure.The book is divided into 5 sections.In the first, a major event occurs to one of the characters.In the second, the tape is rewound and that same character's life takes another course.In the third and, in my opinion, the most expendable part of the book, which follows directly from the second section, an unsettling event happens to one of the other main characters.In the fourth, the tape is rewound once again and the same thing that happened to one of the characters in the first section happens to one of the other characters.The fifth section follows directly from the second without the events in the third section having happened.Moreover, in this section one of the characters becomes aware that she is a character in a novel and begins talking back to the author.

Confused? I wouldn't blame you if you were.However, the book does come together with remarkable coherence at the end because it deals with several universal human themes.I think all human beings have "what ifs?" in their lives.Haven't all of us wondered at time what our lives would have been like if such and such hadn't happened.Roth shows us several different scenarios as to how things might have turned out for his characters.Another major theme is Jewish identity: how does a Jew fit into a society where he is a minority and perhaps an outsider?Or, does he reject that society and go to Israel, where Jews run the show?How does a gentile who is in no way anti-Semitic manage a relationship with a Jew she loves but who is also full of anger at the history of anti-Semitism?Finally, what is real and what isn't?What is the difference between fiction and reality?This is not an original theme, to be sure, but rather handles it with exceptional skill and finesse.

Finally, I must comment on Roth's prose style.Roth writes the clearest and most lucid prose of any modern American writer, with the possible exception of John Updike.Reading Roth is nearly effortless.What may be difficult and may cause the reader to pause are the ideas he discusses, but never the prose style.I cannot recommend this book highly enough as a riveting and talented read.

4-0 out of 5 stars Metafictional Roth
This may not be my favorite Zuckerman novel, but it is the most experimental.I went into it not knowing much about it, other than that it was the next title in the series.Having read it, I'm still not sure what happened.This is one of Roth's most metafictional novels.It is divided into several chapters, each one radically re-defining what came before.It is useless to talk of a plot because there isn't really one - it's different variations on a theme.It is a series of "What if?" scenarios strung together.

Aside from its narrative complexity, the joy of the text comes from Roth's voice.His characters move through New Jersey, London, Israel - meeting absurd people and situations, all told in a completely convincing and realistic way.

5-0 out of 5 stars Claroscuros
No es fácil poner estrellas a Philip Roth porque suele estar (hasta donde lo he leído), para mi gusto, entre las cuatro y las cinco. ¿Cuál es entonces la diferencia entre poner cuatro o cinco estrellas a uno de sus libros? Creo que en el plano literario en que Roth se maneja ello puede zanjarse con asuntos del tipo "esperé mucho del final y me defraudó." O bien "los personajes resultaron forzados por una trama poderosa que, finalmente, prevaleció por encima de la flojedad de aquéllos." Pero aun así, sus obras marcan cuatro o cinco cuando menos, porque Roth pertenece a esa especie de los grandes creadores, escritores que dejan testimonio del paso del hombre por el Planeta. Es un constructor de pirámides. De esfinges.
En "La Contravida," nos ofrece una especie de poliedro cuyas caras van rotando a medida que avanza la novela. El tema es simple: El hermano de Nathan Zuckerman, Henry, sufre de una afección cardíaca cuya medicación le impide tener erecciones. La frustración lo lleva a optar por una intervención quirúrgica que le devuelva sus perdidas erecciones, pero que, al cabo, le costará la vida. Punto. Eso es. Allí se acaba.
Pero a Roth, este argumento, algo chejoviano quizá, le sirve para reinventar esa misma historia en otro de sus personajes, esta vez en su alter ego Nathan Zuckerman. Entonces, la historia va desplazando su centro de un personaje al otro, del hermano menor al hermano mayor, lo que naturalmente adultera las vidas del entorno pero sin caer en excesos del tipo "Efecto Mariposa." Philip Roth es lo justo, nunca se pasa de la raya. Y entonces nos encontramos con que la fabulación fabula sobre sí misma y, de este modo, el autor verdadero desaparece y aparece según la cara del poliedro que estemos mirando.
Es una lección, esta Contravida, sobre la fragilidad de nuestras propias existencias, expuestas siempre al fingimiento y la elusividad. El verdadero yo no es una sola mole de concreto sino un sustrato de muchas capas que se transmiten unas a otras sus identidades. Roth las hace hablar a todas y al hacerlo nos deja con la sensación de que la lectura se parece a la vida, porque cuando descubrimos el engaño, no sabemos reconocer dónde se escondía la verdad.
En este juego de claroscuros, Roth se lleva la antorcha. Rabo y oreja para él. ... Read more

19. Philip Roth: Novels and Stories 1959-1962: Goodbye, Columbus & Five Short Stories / Letting Go (Library of America)
by Philip Roth
Hardcover: 913 Pages (2005-08-18)
list price: US$35.00 -- used & new: US$15.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1931082790
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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For the last half century, the novels of Philip Roth have re-energized American fiction and redefined its possibilities. Roth's comic genius, his imaginative daring, his courage in exploring uncomfortable truths, and his assaults on political, cultural, and sexual orthodoxies have made him one of the essential writers of our time. By special arrangement with the author, The Library of America now inaugurates the definitive edition of Roth's collected works. This first volume presents Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories, the book that established Roth's reputation on publication in 1959 and for which he won the National Book Award, and his first novel, Letting Go (1962).

The title novella, Goodbye, Columbus, the story of a summer romance between a poor young man from Newark and a rich Radcliffe co-ed, is both a tightly wrought tale of youthful desire and a satiric gem that takes aim at the comfortable affluence of the postwar boom. Here and in the stories that accompany it, including "The Conversion of the Jews" and "Defender of the Faith," Roth depicts Jewish lives in 1950s America with an unflinching sharpness of observation.

In Letting Go, a sprawling novel set largely against the backdrop of Chicago in the 1950s, Roth portrays the moral dilemmas of young people cast precipitously into adulthood, and in the process describes a skein of social and family responsibilities as they are brought into focus by issues of marriage, abortion, adoption, friendship, and career. The novel's expansiveness provides a wide scope for Roth's gift for vivid characterization, and in his protagonist Gabe Wallach he creates a nuanced portrait of a responsive young academic whose sense of morality draws him into the ordeals of others with unforeseen consequences. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

4-0 out of 5 stars Inherent Dangers of Love and Independence
Written in 1962, following the success of "Goodbye, Columbus," that won the National Book Award in 1960, "Letting Go" focuses on the inherent risks of love and independence and lacking family support. The plot revolves around Gabe Wallach, son of a successful NY dentist, who teaches literature at the University of Iowa. Gabe purposely attends graduate school in Iowa then starts teaching there to be away from his clingy father. Following the death of Gabe's mother, his father attempts to strengthen their relationship, though Gabe thinks his father mistreated his mother and is cool to the idea. On his visits to NY, he struggles to bond with his father and despite the father's best efforts, there is no breakthrough. Martha is a waitress with two children and is older than Gabe, who becomes his girlfriend. He meets her in Iowa, though their relationship is short-lived. Gabe initially appears happy with her, but comes to disapprove of her taste in clothes. He also fails to connect with her intellectually and her lifestyle that is devoid of books. One gets the sense, absent worries about money, he is ambling through life, as if uprooted and does not know what he wants. When they argue it's much ado about nothing. While teaching at the university, Gabe, befriends Paul Hertz, a former graduate student like him who is teaching at a local college. Their friendship begins when Gabe lends Paul his copy of "The Portrait of a Lady." In subsequent meetings, Gabe meets Paul's wife, Libby, and helps him get hired at the university where he is teaching for better pay. Paul and Libby are also from NY, who fell in love and defied their parents by marrying. Paul is Jewish. Libby is Catholic and although both are not religious, their union is opposed nevertheless on religious grounds. Their intention to marry severs family ties and they are forbidden to contact any relatives. As a result they move to Ohio and both begin working. Their relationship is tested soon when Libby develops a kidney problem and can no longer work making Paul the sole provider. Later on, when Libby accidentally becomes pregnant, the doctor warns her about the potential risk to her life for carrying the pregnancy to term. Paul is disappointed by the pregnancy knowing they could not raise a child on his meager income. After the abortion, their relationship deteriorates further and Libby accuses Paul of being distant and not desiring her. Paul responds he doesn't want to excite her for health reasons. When Libby considers becoming pregnant and Paul is noncommittal, they agree to adopt and receive vital help from Gabe. Reading the description of their lives, Libby's illness and their thwarted dreams, makes one acutely aware of the risks of failure in the absence of support from the extended family. Lastly, when I survey Mr. Roth's oeuvre, I notice that this was his last novel before he became concerned with shiksas, Alexander Portnoy, Nathan Zuckerman, Mickey Sabbath et al. His books are a pleasure to read!

5-0 out of 5 stars Where greatness began
Philip Roth is a giant of American literature, and this select volume by the Library Of America is a perfect addition to everyone who cares about great literature and likes to see where the greatness began and how it grows in the world of literature. Philip Roth's stature is right up there with Twain, Whitman, Hawthorne, Updike, Joyce Carol Oates, and Faulkner. He writes with clarity, and honesty about life, love, death, and has a sense of humor that is sometimes so subtle it is missed. To complain about the size of the print on the binding is as irrelevant as it is mean spirited. Great writers provide substance, how the publisher presents it is of little real consequence. This, and the second volume are a must for all bibliophiles.

5-0 out of 5 stars The stories tell us a star is born The novel a disappointment
The stories announce Roth to the world. The long title story 'Goodbye Columbus' seems to announce that a successor to F. Scott Fitzgerald has at last appeared in the world of American writing. The freshness, the youth , the energy, the romanticism tempered by irony. 'Goodbye Columbus' is not Gatsby but it signals the coming of a great new star.
In the other stories too Roth appears with a mastery beyond his age, a techical skill and brilliance, a power of irony, a delightful humor.
He also comes with an offensive irrevence and critical view of Jewish American middle - class hypocrisy. But I believe that as Roth himself would later intimate even the fiercest of that criticism ( as it would come late in the true genius work, 'Portnoy') bore in it a tremendous amount of real feeling, identification, love.
Roth too is a superemely American writer concerned with the broader American destiny and meaning. His politics are not to my taste but one feels in his writing a real sense of the touch and taste of American life, an exuberant appreciation.
These are the first writings of what will become a major American writer.
It is interesting that the novel is in my judgment a flat disappointment. And Roth's career does have many flops mixed in with the gems. Perhaps that is the price of experiment or speaking in many voices.
But the opening stories, the 'Goodbye Columbus' collection is a winner. ... Read more

20. My Life As a Man (Vintage International)
by Philip Roth
Paperback: 352 Pages (1994-01-13)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$3.73
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 067974827X
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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A fiction-within-a-fiction, a labyrinthine edifice of funny, mournful, and harrowing meditations on the fatal impasse between a man and a woman, My Life as a Man is Roth's most blistering novel.

At its heart lies the marriage of Peter and Maureen Tarnopol, a gifted young writer and the woman who wants to be his muse but who instead is his nemesis. Their union is based on fraud and shored up by moral blackmail, but it is so perversely durable that, long after Maureen's death, Peter is still trying—and failing—to write his way free of it. Out of desperate inventions and cauterizing truths, acts of weakness, tenderheartedness, and shocking cruelty, Philip Roth creates a work worthy of Strindberg—a fierce tragedy of sexual need and blindness. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (13)

4-0 out of 5 stars Maybe a masterpiece, maybe a misogynistic, self-indulgent mess
For any writers of fiction, English majors, or just avid readers, this is a must-read. Book snobs and other elitists will smile and feel self-satisfied at the abundance of literary allusions and then cringe when they see their own pretentiousness put in print (Iknow I did), while everyone else will be hooked by the shocking candor and absurd sexual confessions.

The first part of the novel is comprised of two short stories that are supposed to have been written by Peter Tarnopol, who tells his "True Story" in the second part. These varying levels of narration allow the reader to examine the relationship between Peter's work and the actual events in his life, and thus also Roth's (if you do a little background reading). Much of what Peter doesn't say in his own account (and he says A LOT) is represented in how he portrays his "real-life" relationships in the preceding stories.

The fact that the two stories are, in fact, before the "actual" events that inspire them makes it difficult to grasp the entire novel at once without rereading it, and the novel is rich and complex (and short) enough that this is possible.

The prose itself is a delight to read. So much of the novel is introspection as opposed to action that it was in danger of losing my interest. At moments, it certainly did, but I always came back to it. The tone and style made dozens of pages of mental deliberation over a single event interesting enough to pay attention to.

Although I obviously enjoyed the novel and affirm its literary merit, I was annoyed by Roth's portrayal of women. A novel that examines what it means to be "a man" is a little distasteful to me to begin with, and it didn't help that nearly all the women in the story are some combination of sex-crazed (and yet also frigid...?), mentally unstable, and completely devoted to the indecisive, ineffectual, wife-beating protagonist. However, what the book ultimately says about women depends on the degree of trust and sympathy the reader is meant to have for the narrator, which is certainly up for debate.

5-0 out of 5 stars When he is good
Philip Roth is a great comic writer. At his best he is one of the funniest writers who has ever written. This work too has many wonderful passages, and brilliant dialogues. It is filled with 'good parts' which seem at the highest level of comic writing. But Roth is also obsessed by his own obsessions and this book tells the same story three times.The opening story is to my mind the best telling of all. And the book as I read it became especially repetitive in its last long account of Tarnapol's imprisoning marriage.
Roth does a lot of post- modern trickery in this work, with one fictional writer writing about another, and with characters from Salinger giving us Salingerlike prose in their opinions of Tarnapol's work. I somehow find all these tricks irrelevant and useless.
The book is structurally flawed and its redemption is not in all its games of perspective, but rather in that lively language which makes Roth when he is good the best comic writer of all.

4-0 out of 5 stars Marital Nightmare
I would not recommend this book as a gift for newlyweds or those contemplating entering marriage.One might read this tale wondering why anybody would ever marry.The fact that this story is based on Roth's first marriage gave me a certain feeling of discomfort.And while I may gape at the terrible car wreck on the highway, I still do not feel a sense of bliss about it.In the same way, I have trouble taking pleasure in Roth's pain.

"My Life as a Man" is a unique work of fiction that begins as a work of fiction by the main character.It then evolves into the "real" events that inspired the character to write his story.Both stories show the main character trapped in a nightmarish marriage.In the "real" story, Peter Tarnopol's story is more unnerving.No reasonable means would cause his wife to agree to a divorce.At points, it causes Peter to evolve into the same frightening psychopath that his wife already was.Had Tarnopol not told us so early in the story, the reader can easily forsee the marriage only ending in death.

Although this may be a work of fiction, the knowledge that it is based on the real life experience of an author that I enjoy is a little disturbing.This may have something to do with why this is one of the few Roth novels that I have had trouble enjoying.Readers should not judge Philip Roth on this work.I would recommend Portnoy's Complaint and The Plot Against America.

4-0 out of 5 stars My Life as a Man
'I could be his Muse, if only he'd let me.'
- An entry from Maureen Tarnopol's diary

Peter Tarnopol has recently battled his way through a horrific marriage.As it stands, he still deals with his ex-wife, Maureen, as she fights for a greater amount of his weekly salary, of which she currently receives one hundred (1970s) American dollars from a total that is not much higher.Tarnopol, a writer who initially showed great promise but who, though he writes and writes and writes, seems unable to produce anything of any great quality, still suffers mentally from the three years he was married.He visits a psychiatrist, Dr Speilvogel, and has recently begun a new relationship with the astonishingly submissive Susan, who seems to exist purely to help Tarnopol through his rough times.

He has written something, however.Two short stories, both dealing with Nathan Zuckerman, a character who shares roughly the same biography with Tarnopol, who himself shares a remarkable similarity to the real author, Philip Roth.This novel is the first that directly examines the relationship an author has with their writing and, through the thin disguise of Tarnopol, allows Roth to dissect and lay bare the horror and tragedy of his first marriage, to Margaret Martinson.

Tarnopol's life parallels Roth's in ways that are so similar it is difficult to believe Roth's claim that he does not write about himself.Indeed, in other works it is clear that he has polished, altered, added to and changed the biography of himself from which he draws his fiction - as do many authors.But in this novel, the key elements of each man's life are too similar, too identical for this to be anything but a confession disguised as a, well, a confession.

Peter Tarnopol is a charming, intelligent, witty man who has had remarkably difficulty in escaping the clutches of his wife Maureen, for all that they are separated.Initially successful as an academic and then as an author, the reader is introduced to little scenes and examinations of Tarnopol's life before he fell under the sway of Maureen.In these Tarnopol was confident, clear in his path through life, and manifestly devoted to literature.We learn his daily schedule, his ideas on writing and reading, his hopes for a future that extends infinitely with repeated days that are very much the same as before.There is, of course, a rub: '...at twenty-five, for all my dedication to the art of fiction, for all the discipline and seriousness (and awe) with which I approached the Flaubertian vocation, I still wanted my life to be somewhat original, and if not violent, at least interesting, when the day's work was done.'And there is his downfall.Tarnopol's methodical, orderly life is shattered by the addition of someone who is not orderly, who will not allow themselves to become trapped into the compartmentalised structure that is Tarnpol's life.

And who can blame Maureen?It is of course important to remember, as it is with any story recounting a divorce, that the person telling the tale is somewhat biased.For all their good intentions - and it seems that Tarnopol does not have good intentions so much as he wants to rid himself of the difficulty of his late twenties life through the cleansing burn of cathartic revelation - the divorcee, the divorcee, the separated, the broken-hearted - their story is tainted by a desire to show themselves in a better light than the other person, whomever they may be.It is to the credit of Tarnopol, however, that in his confession he does not stray from revealing the negatives of his own personality, though one of course must wonder if this is what he did reveal, what behaviour did he leave to rot in the dark corners of the relationship?

There is a sense that what Tarnopol wants is not life but literature.Flaubert and Tolstoy are referred to most often, with plenty of other authors scattered throughout.Tarnopol is a writer in the sense that he cannot seem to allow himself fully into the world of the non-writers.He is bewildered, bemused, confused, destroyed, caught up in and thrown about by life, when all he wants to do - professes to do - is write.Then write, Tarnopol!Yet it is of course the inexorable pull of 'reality', the 'real life' that everyone else seems to have, that draws him from this shell of literature-as-everything to life-as-something, even if his life turns out wrong.

It goes without saying that if the character of Tarnopol is not liked, then the novel will not be enjoyable.Indeed, there is nothing to this novel without Tarnopol.This novel is Tarnopol, in every sense of the term.This is the greatest strength of the work if Tarnopol's charm is received well, but if the reader finds him insufferable, then the novel fails.The plot is slim, and is written with a jumping back and forth style that sometimes comes across as overly complicated.As is often the case with Roth's work, if the story was told in a strictly chronological order it would be a) Not a Roth novel and b) Not particularly interesting.

As mentioned, Roth's own life parallels - or more accurately, Tarnopol's created life parallels Roth - the difficulties experienced within the novel.Both Maureen Tarnopol and Margaret Martinson purchased urine from a pregnant black woman to trick their partner into staying with them by faking a pregnancy test.Both Maureen and Margaret died in car accidents.Is this important to the enjoyment of the novel?No, it is not.But it is important in the sense that from great tragedy a writer - in every sense of the Flaubertian term - can emerge.Roth - and, we presume, Tarnopol - managed to rise from the ashes of a disastrous relationship to continue the pursuit of literature.Lucky for us.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent early Roth
This novel is in two parts: the first consists of two stories about Nathan Zuckerman, his loves and his marriage to Lydia, which ends with her suicide; the second is about Peter Tarnapol and his disastrous marriage to vampire-like Maureen. Both sections are "written" by Tarnapol (the first as "fiction" the second as "autobiography"), and part of what Roth is exploring in this novel is the boundary between an author's real life and his fictions. Can an author learn things about the life he's actually living from the fiction he creates? It seems in this case, at least, Tarnapol learns very little, probably because his fictions are too closely parallel to his reality. Tarnapol has entered into a relationship and then married Maureen thinking he is going to "save" her from her calamitous past (two destructive marriages) only to realize that he has become her victim. How many writers can be both venomous and hilarious at the same time the way Roth is? And he is at his best in this novel. With almost every novel since GOODBYE, COLUMBUS Roth had become better and better at his craft; MY LIFE AS A MAN was his best novel up to that point (1974). Excellent. ... Read more

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