Saturday, March 28, 2009

EXIT GHOST by Philip Roth

Exit Ghost is pretty good Roth, better than the dismal Everyman (to damn it with faint praise) but not as good as The Human Stain or The Plot Against America, and nowhere near Sabbath's Theater, The Counterlife, or Portnoy's Complaint. It doesn't approach the excellence of the novel it bookends, The Ghost Writer, nor does it really seem intent on trying. The only great moment of Rothian outrage in the book is the incest dream at the beginning of chapter 5, but Roth does achieve something more subtle and (for him) unusual in the tension created between the Jamie that Zuckerman narrates (the 'real' Jamie) and the "Jamie" he imagines in the dialogue scenes. And although the ending is an abrupt letdown, a real anticlimax, Roth saves it nicely by showing us Zuckerman escaping from life into writing--writing that narrates his escape and which he ends by proclaiming himself, in an oddly Updikean cadence, "gone for good." Dommage, I say.

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