One is with a young couple with whom, in a rash moment, he offers to swap homes.
But from the time he meets them, Zuckerman also wants to swap his solitude for the erotic challenge of the young woman, Jamie, whose allure draws him back to all that he thought he had left behind: intimacy, the vibrant play of heart and body. The second connection is with a figure from Zuckerman's youth, Amy Bellette, companion and muse to Zuckerman's first literary hero, E.
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The once irresistible Amy is now an old woman depleted by illness, guarding the memory of that grandly austere American writer who showed Nathan the solitary path to a writing vocation. The third connection is with Lonoff's would-be biographer, a young literary hound who will do and say nearly anything to get to Lonoff's "great secret.
Exit Ghost, Enter Roth: A Review of The Humbling
Haunted by Roth's earlier work The Ghost Writer , Exit Ghost is an amazing leap into yet another phase in this great writer's insatiable commitment to fiction. The opening lines of the book read: "He'd lost his magic. The impulse was spent. In fact, the first act of this tragedy reads almost like a travesty of Roth's own oeuvre: of course Axler's wife flees to California and of course Axler is too cowardly to follow her departure with suicide, "the gun as sequel to the wife.
The script of his life has taken precedence over his psychic reality. In this section, Roth also mocks a certain didactic tick that has preoccupied much of his later work, the notion of self as performance, the artifice of identity.
When instructed, like a kindergartner, to draw a picture with crayons, Axler draws a picture of himself drawing a picture: "A picture [ One feels inclined to yell at the opening of this book, we've read it in Exit Ghost and we've read it in The Counterlife , give us something new! And something new is exactly what follows in the succeeding two acts, "The Transformation" and "The Final Act. I won't ruin the surprises Roth plants in the plot of these two sections but urge readers to discover them for themselves.
More generally, what ensues is a recapitulation of many of the problems Roth has been dissecting throughout his works, but through a more nuanced and fresher lens. Rather than get bound up in reflexive musings on the nature of the artist, Roth takes a stab at identity in the realm of gender and sexuality. At the heart of this book are questions about how we play our gendered selves and how these performances add to or detract from our power.
I hope that those readers who have criticized Roth for his apparent misogyny will at least pick up this book and re-engage with the new dialogue he has set out. Though touted in English departments around the country, Philip Roth remains one of our most consumable writers -- his prose is direct and his storylines are gripping.