Exit Ghost

Exit Ghost

by Philip Roth


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Nathan Zuckerman returns to New York in the long-awaited final installment of Philip Roth's renowned Zuckerman series.

Alone for eleven years on his New England mountain, Zuckerman has been nothing but a writer: no media, no terrorist threats, no women, no tasks other than his work and the enduring of old age. Walking the streets of New York after so many years away, he quickly makes three connections that explode his carefully protected solitude. Suddenly involved, as he never wanted or intended to be again, with love, mourning, desire, and animosity, Zuckerman plays out an interior drama of vivid and poignant possibilities.

Revisiting the characters from Roth's much-heralded The Ghost Writer, Exit Ghost is an astounding leap into yet another phase in this great writer's oeuvre.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307387295
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/11/2008
Series: Nathan Zuckerman Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 594,622
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

In 1997 Philip Roth won the Pulitzer Prize for American Pastoral. In 1998 he received the National Medal of Arts at the White House and in 2002 the highest award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Gold Medal in Fiction. He twice won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He won the PEN/Faulkner Award three times. In 2005 The Plot Against America received the Society of American Historians’ Prize for “the outstanding historical novel on an American theme for 2003–2004.” Roth received PEN’s two most prestigious awards: in 2006 the PEN/Nabokov Award and in 2007 the PEN/Bellow Award for achievement in American fiction. In 2011 he received the National Humanities Medal at the White House, and was later named the fourth recipient of the Man Booker International Prize. He died in 2018.



Date of Birth:

March 19, 1933

Place of Birth:

Newark, New Jersey


B.A. in English, Bucknell University, 1954; M.A. in English, University of Chicago, 1955

Read an Excerpt

1 The Present MomentI hadn't been in New York in eleven years. Other than for surgery in Boston to remove a cancerous prostate, I'd hardly been off my rural mountain road in the Berkshires in those eleven years and, what's more, had rarely looked at a newspaper or listened to the news since 9/11, three years back; with no sense of loss-merely, at the outset, a kind of drought within me-I had ceased to inhabit not just the great world but the present moment. The impulse to be in it and of it I had long since killed.But now I'd driven the hundred and thirty miles south to Manhattan to see a urologist at Mount Sinai Hospitalwho specialized in performing a procedure to help the thousands of men like me left incontinent by prostate surgery. By going in through a catheter inserted in the urethra to inject a gelatinous form of collagen where the neck of the bladder meets the urethra, he was getting significant improvement in about fifty percent of his patients. These weren't great odds, especially as “significant improvement” meant only a partial alleviation of the symptoms- reducing “severe incontinence” to “moderate incontinence” or “moderate” to “light.” Still, because his results were better than those that other urologists had achieved using roughly the same technique (there was nothing to be done about the other hazard of radical prostatectomy that I, like tens of thousands of others, had not been lucky enough to escape-nerve damage resulting in impotence), I went to New York for a consultation, long after I imagined myself as having adapted to the practical inconveniences of the condition.In the years since the surgery, I even thought I'd surmounted the shaming side of wetting oneself, overcome the disorienting shock that had been particularly trying in the first year and a half, during the months when the surgeon had given me reason to think that the incontinence would gradually disappear over time, as it does in a small number of fortunate patients. But despite the dailiness of the routine necessary to keep myself clean and odor-free, I must never truly have become accustomed to wearing the special undergarments and changing the pads and dealing with the “accidents,” any more than I had mastered the underlying humiliation, because there I was, at the age of seventy-one, back on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, not many blocks from where I'd once lived as a vigorous, healthy younger man-there I was in the reception area of the urology department of Mount Sinai Hospital, about to be assured that with the permanent adherence of the collagen to the neck of the bladder I had achance of exerting somewhat more control over my urine flow than an infant. Waiting there envisioning the procedure, sitting and flipping through the piled-up copies of People and New York magazine, I thought, Entirely beside the point. Turn around and go home.I'd been alone these past eleven years in a small house on a dirt road in the deep country, having decided to live apart like that some two years before the cancer was diagnosed. I see few people. Since the death, a year earlier, of my neighbor and friend Larry Hollis, two, three days can go by when I speak to no one but the housekeeper who comes to clean each week and her husband, who is my caretaker. I don't go to dinner parties, I don't go to movies, I don't watch television, I don't own a cell phone or a VCR or a DVD player or a computer. I continue tolive in the Age of the Typewriter and have no idea what the World Wide Web is. I no longer bother to vote. I write for most of the day and often into the night. I read, mainly the books that I first discovered as a student, the masterpieces of fiction whose power over me is no less, and in some cases greater, than it was in my initial exciting encounters with them. Lately I've been rereading Joseph Conrad for the first time in fifty years, most recently The Shadow-Line, which I'd brought with me to New York to look through yet again, having read it all in one go only the other night. I listen to music, I hike in the woods, when it's warm I swim in my pond, whose temperature, even in summer, never gets much above seventy degrees. I swim there without a suit, out of sight of everyone, so that if in my wake I leave a thin, billowing cloud of urine that visibly discolors the surrounding pond waters, I'm largely unperturbed and feel nothing like the chagrin that would be sure to crush me should my bladder involuntarily begin emptying itself while I was swimming in a public pool. There are plastic underpants with strongly elasticized edges designed for incontinent swimmers that are advertised as watertight, but when, after much equivocation, I went ahead and ordered a pair from a pool-supply catalogue and tried them out in the pond, I found that though wearing these biggish white bloomers beneath a bathing suit diminished the problem, it was not sufficiently eradicated to subdue my self-consciousness. Rather than take the chance of embarrassing myself and offending others, I gave up on the idea of swimming regularly down at the college pool for the bulk of the year (with bloomers under my suit) and continued to confine myself to sporadically yellowing the waters of my own pond during the Berkshires' few months of warm weather, when, rain or shine, I do my laps for half an hour every day.A couple of times a week I go down the mountain into Athena, eight miles away, to shop for groceries, to get my clothes cleaned, occasionally to eat a meal or buy a pair of socks or pick up a bottle of wine or use the Athena College library. Tanglewood isn't far away, and I drive over to a concert there some ten times during the summer. I don't give readings or lectures or teach at a college or appear on TV. When my books are published, I keep to myself. I write every day of the week-otherwise I'm silent. I am tempted by the thought of not publishing at all-isn't the work all I need, the work and the working? What does it matter any longer if I'm incontinent and impotent? Larry and Marylynne Hollis had moved up from West Hartford to the Berkshires after he'd retired from a lifelong position as an attorney with a Hartford insurance company. Larry was two years my junior, a meticulous, finicky man who seemed to believe that life was safe only if everything in it was punctiliously planned and whom, during the months when he first tried to draw me into his life, I did my best to avoid. I submitted eventually, not only because he was so dogged in his desire to alleviate my solitude but because I had never known anyone like him,an adult whose sad childhood biography had, by his own estimate, determined every choice he had made since his mother had died of cancer when he was ten, a mere four years after his father, who owned a Hartford linoleum store, had been bested no less miserably by the same disease. An only child, Larry was sent to live with relatives on the Naugatuck River southwest of Hartford, just outside bleak, industrial Waterbury, Connecticut, and there, in a boy's diary of “Things to Do,” he laid out a future for himself that he followed to the letter for the rest of his life; from then on, everything undertaken was deliberately causal. He was content with no grade other than an A and even as an adolescent vigorously challenged any teacher who'd failed to accurately estimate his achievement. He attended summer sessions to accelerate his graduation from high school and get to college before he turned seventeen; he did the same during his summers at the University of Connecticut, where he had a full-tuition scholarship and worked in the library boiler room all year round to pay for his room and board so he could get out of college and change his name from Irwin Golub to Larry Hollis (as he'd planned to do when he was only ten) and join the air force, to become a fighter pilot known to the world as Lieutenant Hollis and qualify for the GI Bill; on leaving the service, he enrolled at Fordham and, in return for his three years in the air force, the government paid for his three years of law school. As an air force pilot stationed in Seattle he vigorously courted a pretty girl just out of high school who was named Collins and who met exactly his specifications for a wife, one of which was that she be of Irish extraction, with curly dark hair and with ice-blue eyes like his own. “I did not want to marry a Jewish girl. I did not want my children to be raised in the Jewish religion or have anything to do with being Jews.” “Why?” I asked him. “Because that's not what I wanted for them” was his answer. That he wanted what he wanted and didn't want what he didn't want was the answer he gave to virtually every question I asked him about the utterly conventional structure he'd made of his life after all those early years of rushing and planning to build it. When he first knocked on my door to introduce himself-only a few days after he and Marylynne had moved into the house nearest to mine, some half mile down our dirt road-he immediately decided that he didn't want me to eat alone every night and that I had to take dinner at his house with him and his wife at least once a week. He didn't want me to be alone on Sundays-he couldn't bear the thought of anyone's being as alone as he'd been as an orphaned child, fishing in the Naugatuck on Sundays with his uncle, a dairy inspector for the state-and so he insisted that every Sunday morning we had a hiking date or, if the weather was bad, Ping-Pong matches, Ping-Pong being a pastime that I could barely tolerate but that I obliged him by playing rather than have a conversation with him about the writing of books. He asked me deadly questions about writing and was not content until I had answered them to his satisfaction. “Where do you get your ideas?” “How do you know if an idea is a good idea or a bad idea?” “How do you know when to use dialogue and when to use straight storytelling without dialogue?” “How do you know when a book is finished?” “How do you select a first sentence? How do you select a title? How do you select a last sentence?” “Which is your best book?” “Which is your worst book?” “Do you like your characters?” “Have you ever killed a character?” “I heard a writer on television say that the characters take over the book and write it themselves. Is that true?” He had wanted to be the father of one boy and one girl, and only after the fourth girl was born did Marylynne defy him and refuse to continue trying to produce the male heir that had been in his plans from the age of ten. He was a big, squarefaced, sandy-haired man, and his eyes were crazy, ice-blue and crazy, unlike Marylynne's ice-blue eyes, which were beautiful, and the ice-blue eyes of the four pretty daughters, all of whom had gone to Wellesley because his closest friend in the air force had a sister at Wellesley and when Larry met her she exhibited just the sort of polish and decorum that he wanted to see in a daughter of his. When we would go to a restaurant (which we did every other Saturday night-that too he would have no other way) he could be counted on to be demanding with the waiter. Invariably there was a complaint about the bread. It wasn't fresh. It wasn't the kind he liked. There wasn't enough for everyone.One evening after dinner he came by unexpectedly and gave me two orange kittens, one long-haired and one short-haired, just over eight weeks old. I had not asked for two kittens, nor had he apprised me of the gift beforehand. He said he'd been to his ophthalmologist for a checkup in the morning, seen a sign by the receptionist's desk saying she had kittens to give away. That afternoon he went to her house and picked out the two most beautiful of the six for me. His first thought on seeing the sign was of me.He put the kittens down on the floor. “This isn't the life you should have,” he said. “Whose is?” “Well, mine is, for one. I have everything I ever wanted. I won't have you experiencing the life of a person alone any longer. You do it to the goddamn utmost. It's too extreme, Nathan.” “As are you.” “The hell I am! I'm not the one who lives like this. All I'm pushing on you is a little normality. This is too separate an existence for any human being. At least you can have a couple of cats for company. I have all the stuff for them in the car.”He went back outside, and when he returned he emptied onto the floor a couple of large supermarket bags containing half a dozen little toys for them to bat around, a dozen cans of cat food, a large bag of cat litter and a plastic litter box, two plastic dishes for their food, and two plastic bowls for their water.“There's all you'll need,” he said. “They're beauties. Look at them. They'll give you a lot of pleasure.”He was exceedingly stern about all this, and there was nothing I could say except, “It's very thoughtful of you, Larry.”“What will you call them?”“A and B.”“No. They need names. You live all day with the alphabet. You can call the short-haired one Shorty and the long-haired one Longy.”“That's what I'll do then.”

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Exit Ghost 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading the review in USA Today and not inspired by anything else I gave this book a shot. Wow what a treat this was. Philip Roth is an amazing author whom I had not read. The story of Nathan Zuckerman is what I presume to be the last book in the series and is not the ideal place to start. Roths amazing ability to tell his story and make it relative to now, made it an easy read. Nathan Zuckermans story takes you from the Berkshires and his life of total seclusion to New York and his past. This story is a sort of love story that is funny, sad, and infectious. It's a fast read that will make you go back to the bookstore to explore his earlier works. In a time of mostly disposable literature I am excited about the prospect of filling my shelves with a great American author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Nathan is in the twilight of things. Against his will he drags himself from hiding and once again enters the world the rest of us live in. Dragged back into society, not by a lust for life, but rather a lust to be continent and not peeing in pools. That said, this is a wonderful book especially for a reader like myself who has skated into middle age and sees only a hole and broken ice in the path ahead. Roth is a magician with words and though this book has an air of sadness, it also a book of endurance, written by a master at the height of his powers. Nathan is as real and as vital as any character in fiction could be. Roth is a genius, an artist.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One can only hope that EXIT GHOST is not the final page in the multiple books on the life of Nathan Zuckerman (the thinly disguised author Philip Roth). Though the principal character of nine books since 1979 is now aged 71, leading a reclusive life after the ravages of prostatic carcinoma treatments have left him incontinent and impotent, there is more than a little life in the master storyteller. Philip Roth continues his eloquent writing style in this latest book and still struggles with the enigmas of sexual obsession, distaste for current politics in this country, and the Don Quixote stance against aging and dying. And in doing so he has created a novel with fascinating characters, satisfying plot, propulsive reading style, and much food for thought! Nathan Zuckerman, in this book, has decided to take a chance on a surgical procedure the will cure or at least improve his embarrassing urinary incontinence, one of the many reasons he has moved from New York City to a rural New England hideaway to write in solitude. But upon arrival in New York he meets a beautiful couple (Jamie and Billy), both writers, who are suffering from the after-effects of 911 and upon encountering their literary hero Zuckerman, coerce him into trading houses: Zuckerman will remain in their New York space and the couple will escape to his New England sanctuary. But other factors arise: Zuckerman meets his old friend Amy Bellette, once the lover of Zuckerman's hero writer E.I. Lenoff, and discovers Amy's resistance to allowing a young writer Richard Kliman to finish and publish a manuscript containing a dark secret of Lenoff, a manuscript he never wanted published Zuckerman has limited success in his first incontinence surgery Zuckerman's self imposed sexual exile is awakened in fantasies about the married Jamie, a wondrously written series of imaginary dialogs between the two. All of these complex components are succinctly woven into this 300-page book that doesn't really end, but instead tapers off into an elegy about aging. The story is great reading: the style is pure Roth. 'The end is so immense, it is its own poetry. It requires little rhetoric. Just state it plainly'. 'Reading/writing people, we are finished, we are ghosts witnessing the end of the literary era - take this down'. Reading Roth is an enriching pastime, one to savor and relish. This is not a book to rush - this is a book to treasure, and once read, to reflect...Grady Harp
Hagelstein on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The reclusive writer Nathan Zuckerman is impotent and incontinent as a result of prostate cancer surgery. He returns to New York City from his secluded farmhouse after over a decade away for a short trip to see a doctor. Zuckerman gets caught up with a young couple with whom he decides to trade homes for a year. He¿s enamored of the wife, whom he had met once years earlier. He is pursued by a would-be biographer of a dead novelist with a secret. The story is permeated with age, sickness, and secrets but isn¿t really compelling enough to care about. As one of the characters says, ¿you go through too much emotion for something inconsequential.¿
miriamparker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
First chapter of this book made me want to strangle myself and stop writing my book and just capitulate that Phillip Roth is just SO MUCH SMARTER than any other writer ever, especially ones who want to write about old writers and editors and ghosts. And then the middle kind of got slow, so I thought, "Well, maybe it's doable." AND THEN I READ THE END and I almost committed suicide in the airport (in a good way, I mean, if you know what my novel is about, you understand.) But I can't give it five stars, because the middle is dull and there is SOME Roth-ian self-indulgence. But this one is good. For real.
realbigcat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I decided to read this book based on an article in a Bucknell University Alumni magazine that reference the book. Roth himself is a Bucknell alumnus and I had the book in my library but never read it. You can read the other reviews for the plot but the conflict is that Nathan Zuckerman ( Roth's alter ego) is now 71 and ravaged by incontenence from prostate cancer, In addition he realizes he is having trouble remembering things. This comes into play with the banter between his desire for the young and beautiful Jamie. His lack of sexual inability is not the same as his desire and there in is a struggle that I believe is familiar to many older men. Likewise, is his battle between Kliman the young writer who wants to take on a negative writing a negative book on Zuckermans mentor, E.I. Lonoff. Again his aging body and mind struggle from his younger days when confronting Kliman. I would compare it to the stories of an aging lion. In almost a reverse scenerio is Zuckerman's struggle with finding Lonoff's old lover Amy Bellette who was once beautiful and is now an old woman ravaged by brain cancer. Alll of these conflicts are melded together in this story which I found interesting. I can't say I was a fan of the ending but to me it was worth the read.
bobbieharv on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Yet another of Roth's old lusting man novels. He writes so well, despite this tired theme, that I always enjoy his books, though I'm really starting to feel sorry for him. Interesting, in this one, the way he fobbed the narrator's (and his own) political views off on the young female character.
melancholy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
not the best zuckerman novel but clearly still worth reading.also not a great cover design.
mrstreme on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In his latest installment of Nathan Zuckerman stories, Philip Roth created a story of an aging literary genius who was battling several demons: incontinence, impotence, a failing memory and worries about his legacy. This is my first Zuckerman book where he narrated (he did appear in The Human Stain but more as a minor character), and I found his storytelling to be intelligent, desperate and enthralling.Zuckerman lived in near-isolation in the Berkshires but traveled to his old stomping ground, New York City, for an experimental procedure to help with his incontinence (a result of prostate cancer). While there, he becomes intrigued by an ad where a young couple wanted to swap homes for a year. Jamie and Billy were looking for a country refuge to \escape the scares of terrorism in post-09/11 New York City. On a whim, Zuckerman agreed to meet the couple and became mesmerized by the beguiling Jamie (frustrating for an impotent Zuckerman).Through Jamie, an ambitious young writer, Richard Kliman, contacted Zuckerman. Kliman was writing a biography on a long-forgotten American author, E.I. Lonoff, (one of Zuckerman¿s heroes). However, Kliman wanted to add a scandal to Lonoff¿s story. Outraged, Zuckerman realized that he¿s an old man ¿ no match for the young energy produced by Kliman ¿ and wondered: After Zuckerman died, who was to stop a young author from writing his biography full of scandal and secrets? This story documented the journey of a genius, dealing with the physical limitations of an aging body and the slow mental decline of his brain. You felt Zuckerman¿s desperation, frustration and determination to remain the man he once was. More than that, though, you shared Zuckerman¿s concern for his legacy, literary canon and lack of control over both once he was gone.I thought Exit Ghost was brilliant. Filled with witty prose, political satire and ageism, I look forward to reading Zuckerman¿s stories set during his prime. You have to wonder if Zuckerman¿s creator, Philip Roth, shared his character¿s frustrations as an aging writer. If what I¿ve read is any indication, Roth is secure in his legacy as one of American¿s greatest writers.
pdever on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Exit Ghost is an elaborate death fantasy. It's a story about lost continence and losing one's mind (or maybe just one's memory), and I truly appreciated the way Roth pulled me into that predicament. I was keenly interested by the way he cultivated my trust in Nathan Zuckerman on the one hand and showed him to be an untrustworthy narrator on the other. It was a masterful balancing act, and you could say the same thing about my sympathy for Zuckerman as an unsympathetic character as well. All that speaks to Roth's skill.I can't say I liked the book, however. I found myself focused on the way Roth used Nathan Zuckerman to write about other literary figures. Was he dropping names? Being pretentious? Showing off? There was some brilliant commentary scattered about, but too often I found that I didn't care what Zuckerman thought about Gerorge Plimpton, or Hemmingway, or Hawthorne . . . I almost didn't care what he (or the other characters) thought about E. I. Lonoff, the literary figure who was the central conceit of the novel.
sggottlieb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Pretty boring. Makes getting old look frustrating and humiliating.
CasualFriday on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I didn't love this latest (and last?) installment of Roth's Nathan Zuckerman novels. Zuckerman, impotent and incontinent following prostate surgery, leaves his Berkshires haven for Manhattan. He connects with the lover of his late literary hero, I. E. Lonoff, an aggressive would-be biographer of Lonoff who claims to know a secret, and a young couple with whom he agrees to swap homes for year. The story was absorbing, and the writing as good as always, but the tone put me off. Zuckerman seems to equate his sexual impotency with his literary decline, and that's so facile. He also seems to revere the Great Male Writers with their Big Ideas and their Propulsive Energy, and gives me the impression he would disdain women writers. I've been reading a Roth novel a year, and the recent ones I've read didn't have this vaguely anti-feminist tone.
SallyBrice on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Philip Roth may be the greatest living American novelist. One reason for my esteem is his fecundity. This is an odd word choice for such an assertively male author, but it seems appropriate in the way his works are often connected like siblings. One of his most recent books, Exit Ghost (2007) is part of the ¿Zuckerman series¿ that go back nearly thirty years. On the surface Exit Ghost displays the logical extension of Nathan Zuckerman¿s growing list of physical ailments plaguing the protagonist author over the years. Nor is Zuckerman the only Roth ¿child¿ to suffer humiliating markers of age. In the last Kepesh novel, The Dying Animal (2001), David Kepesh is terrified of his potential sexual impotence; in The Humbling (2009) actor Simon Axler has lost his ability to perform in the other meaning of the word. It is not Zuckerman¿s failed prostate and subsequent incontinence in Exit Ghost that provides the character and the reader with the most suspense. That comes from a threatened biography of Zuckerman¿s long-ago mentor by a crass young man who is also Nathan¿s rival for the attention of one of the lovely young muses who populate Roth¿s novels. It is not only the mishandling of a revered teacher¿s aesthetic that repulses Zuckerman; it is the revelation of a supposed secret of a sexual nature about the intensely private man that convinces the equally private Zuckerman to block the young man¿s efforts. One of the ways he will do this is to propound his own theory that the dead author was writing in his unpublished last work about a hushed-up scandal about an earlier American author, Nathaniel Hawthorne. Is this wheel-within-a-wheel Roth¿s clever commentary on the intellectual incest that poses for true cultural exploration?I, a confessed occasionally prurient reader, was struck by the similarity of Exit Ghost to an earlier Zuckerman novel, I Married a Communist (1998) based on just the kind of gossip-oriented reading Zuckerman and Roth so obviously detest. I can take refuge in the fact that I Married a Communist was perhaps the only roman a clef Roth is guilty of writing. It is clearly a rebuttal to Roth¿s ex-wife the actress Claire Bloom¿s bitter memoir about their marriage, Leaving a Doll¿s House (1996). There are enough sound examinations of issues such as creativity, solitude, Judaism, and political persecution to redeem I Married a Communist, but Exit Ghost shows how many of the same topics can be more satisfyingly dissected with a feather than a sledgehammer.I give Exit Ghost a 4 out of 5 in comparison with other Roth novels such as The Counterlife (1986), American Pastoral (1997), The Human Stain (2000), When She Was Good (1967), Portnoy's Complaint (1969), and Everyman (2006). Compared to literature as a whole, I would give Exit Ghost a 5.
heidijane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very clever, slightly weird, funny and satirical, a bit intellectual, obsessive reading...i'm not entirely sure what i thought of this book, to be honest. Did i enjoy it? I'm not sure "enjoy" is the right word. It was a good read, although slow to start with it soon picked up, but i'm left feeling slightly frustrated as i don't think the story has been resolved...at least not to my satisfaction. But what do i know? This is my first Philip Roth book, so maybe thats typical.
tsutsik on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Nathan Zuckerman returns to New York after ten years of absence. Although still a succesful writer he has cut his links with the rest of humanity. In vain he tries to re-attach himself to the world. The two main themes are very interesting: first his anger over his lost control over his body, second his anger about how biographers reduce and diminish the lives of their subjects to a few sensationalized incidents. I've never read a book which so vividly describes incontinence, and other forms of ailments like the fear of memory loss and dementia. He wants to try an experimental therapy for a cure for his incontinence, in the vain hope he can find his former self: womanizer, man of the world. I did like the first part of the novel very much - where he states his troubles, observes the changed city, but after finishing I felt a bit disappointed, he seems to have been in a hurry to get to the end. The way he handles jamie, seems quite unrealistic to me, and the end seems to me a trick for Roth to get out of this novel as quickly as possible. Still,you should read it to judge for yourself.
berthirsch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Exit Ghost by Philip Roth, although more novella than full-blown novel, for Roth fans this is still a worthwhile read. The book lacks depth but it touches on themes that readers of contemporary American fiction will find satisfying.The story is about the familiar, well-known yet fading novelist Nathan Zuckerman who, for much of Roth¿s career, has served as his alter-ego. Zuckerman, forced by failed health to abandon his voluntary exile and solitude in the Berkshires, returns to Manhattan (for medical consultations) where he had once been vital, connected and active. His humiliating prostate condition has minimized his libido and resulted in his dependency on diapers. For a man of ego and vitality what can be more of a blow to one¿s self esteem than a compromised, leaking penis.His sexuality in tatters, he meets up with younger versions of his past self and liaisons. Richard Kliman, a young, bright, aggressive self-promoter looking to make a name for himself by writing an exploitive biography of E.I. Lonoff, the famed, yet now ignored and deceased novelist, who served as a mentor figure in the first Zuckerman book- The Ghost Writer. Also appearing from that novel is Amy Bellette, Lonoff¿s lover, who also faces illness and is the keeper of Lonoff¿s incestuous secrets and finds herself besieged by Kliman¿s intrusive phone calls and insistent inquiries.Kliman¿s college girlfriend, Jamie Logan, a 30¿ish beauty beset by anxiousness and the self-doubt caused by the unfulfilled promise of her own writing career, stalled since once of her short stories had appeared in The New Yorker. Her husband, Billy, is the typical ¿nice Jewish boy¿, married to a beautiful shiksa whom he lovingly adores and dotes on; (of course this Rothian parody will be familiar to students of his oeuvre). Jamie seeks refuge from the post 9/11 New York City by swapping homes with Zuckerman.Zuckerman, seeking to regain his lost sexuality and vitality, fantasizes about seducing Jamie but the imagined ¿he-she¿ dialogues he composes are trite and under-imagined.Not to be overlooked much of the action takes place on Election Night 2004 and Roth offers up delicious take-downs of George W. and is clearly unabashed in his excoriating criticisms of Bush, Texas (where Jamie grew up) and how sophisticated New Yorkers were shocked to find that America had re-elected this bumbling fool (even Billy¿s Jewish parents in Philadelphia buying into Bush¿s pro Israel rhetoric).For any reader of Roth¿s career this is a must read. It is a coda to the Zuckerman journey and it also describes the pathetic dilemma facing baby boomer males as they face their own aging and fading physical prowess. How does one¿s physical reality resolve itself to its still youthful fantasies? Does one find resolution in tummy tucks and face lifts seeking out younger lovers or does one age more gracefully seeking out the companionship of like- minded- and- bodied peers?
joancall on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lock up your daughters, ladies. Nathan Zuckerman is back - 71, impotent and incontinant, and he still fancies himself a mover with the young ladies. If he could just transfer some of his great genius from his brain into his heart and his pecker, I would worship him and his work.
PortiaLong on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An aging writer returns to NYC after years of seclusion and is confronted with his own fantasies and new drama relating to old acquaintances. Impotent, incontinent and memory failing he vacillates between fantasy and self-pity.
msbaba on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Exit Ghost is the second Philip Roth book that I¿ve read. I read the first, Everyman, a few months ago, and it convinced me that I¿d been foolishly wrongheaded about not reading Roth earlier in my life. I had falsely believed that his male-centered themes and characters might hold no interest for me, a woman who came of age during the 1970s feminist movement. But my experience with these two books has taught me otherwise. Roth is every bit the national literary treasure that others proclaim, and he can be read with pleasure by even died-in-the-wool aging feminists, like me. Personally, I might not like the main male characters in his books, but Roth takes me deep into their souls and I emerge with a better understanding of the human condition.Exit Ghost is complete in itself. I enjoyed it thoroughly and did not feel confused as if I needed to know some prior information about the character to understand what was happening from another book in the series. But now, that I¿ve read the plot summary of the first book in the series, I am intellectually curious to find out all the hidden parallels that escaped me. The novel entertained me with its story, but I can¿t imagine anyone reading Roth purely for the story line. It seems obvious that Roth is read foremost to experience his skill as a writer, and second to hear what this man has to say about major issues of our time. Roth uses his works as a pulpit to preach about important issues that concern him. In this novel, Roth analyzes the declining state of literature in the modern world and proclaims it dead. At one point, the main character, Nathan Zuckerman, rants: "the predominant uses to which literature is now put in the culture pages of the enlightened newspapers and in university English departments are so destructively at odds with the aims of imaginative writing, as well as with the rewards that literature affords to an open-minded reader, that it would be better if literature were no longer put to any public use."In an interview with Roth about Exit Ghost published in The Independent (London, 10/3/07), he says: ¿Writers have always been extremely marginal to the cultural concerns of American citizens, but there was a moment when there were books that interested the general public that were written by some fine writers... Then the attention of readers has shifted away. They've been overcome by so many other distractions; and the habit of concentration I think has been badly damaged, by the nature of the cultural stimuli. So it feels to me very much like a dying moment, for literary culture in my own country¿but you can't have computers and iPods and BlackBerries and blueberries and raspberries, and have time left to sit for two or three hours with a book.¿There is another important theme repeated throughout this work: don¿t judge authors by the conduct of their lives, but rather on the content of their works. Envisioning his own life story in the hands of a future biographer, Zuckerman asks: "How will I have failed to be the model human being? My great, unseemly secret. Surely there was one. Surely there was more than one. An astonishing thing it is, too, that one's prowess and achievement, such as they have been, should find their consummation in the retribution of biographical inquisition. The man in control of the words, the man making up the stories all his life, winds up, after death, remembered, if at all, for a story made up about him, his covert brand of baseness discovered and described with uncompromising candor, clarity, self-certainty, with grave concern for the most delicate issues of morality, and with no small measure of delight."This is a dark and angry book, full of fury and disgust for the failure of aging bodies, the marginalization of literature in the modern world, and a great deal of modern culture in general. It is powerful stuff. I recommend it highly.
reggieandozzie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
very different read...inside a man's mind struggling with what life presents
roblong on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Over the past decade or so the urgency brought about by advancing age has been a great boon to Roth, and the quality of the books he has produced has been astonishing (admittedly everybody has one they didn¿t get along with; I couldn¿t abide The Human Stain). Here I think it works against him. This was involving and had interesting digressions but, despite its strengths, didn¿t have the direction or the bite of an American Pastoral or I Married a Communist. Fragments of it will remain in my memory, but I doubt very much that the work as a whole will. That said, the description of life after surgery for prostate cancer will keep me up nights.
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