Thursday, December 27, 2007

How did Santa know?

How Did Santa Know?
Because I made a list, of course, and made a point of putting Exit Ghost by Philip Roth on it. I'm about 70 pages into the book. It's hard to put down, a great read. A sequel of sorts to The Ghost Writer, the first of Roth's novels about his fictional and literary alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman. The two novels bookend the Zuckerman series -- the first about the young Zuckerman, a sprinter in the literary race, and the last about the 71-year-old Zuckerman (the age Roth was in 2004, the year the events in the book take place), nearing the end of the long marathon, an incontinent, impotent prostate cancer survivor who has distanced himself from the world but is swept by a last wave of passion for a much younger woman. All while being revisited, almost 50 years later, by his youthful encounter with the novelist E. I Lonoff, his wife Hope, and Lonoff's young lover Amy Bellette, portrayed in The Ghost Writer. Humorous, poignant, satirical and written in Roth's characteristically supple, effortlessly fluid style -- it has all the Roth elements. He's one of the greats, and he just keeps on keeping on -- one of my favorite writers. Appropriately, the jacket design is by another cool older dude who just keeps on keeping on -- 78-year-old Milton Glaser.

1/03/08 UPDATE: Dr. Diablo's skepticism in the Comments to the contrary, I did finish all 304 pages. An updated review is posted at The Book Book.


Anonymous said...

You're starting Roth when you haven't even finished Pynchon?

Dr Diablo said...

Anonymous has given voice to the sad disillusion many of us have been working through in isolation. Last year, you vowed to hack your way through the literary jungle that is Thomas Pynchon's AGAINST THE DAY, sending periodic dispatches to those of us left behind. Or maybe you used a nautical metaphor about navigating uncharted literary seas. Whatever.

Your fans have been understanding about your slow progress, since Pynchon's tome is a self-indulgent tangle that might daunt even your machete-like critical faculties. Now, though, we find that you have broken faith, tossing teh book aside in favor of Roth.

We're not falling for it again. The fact that you've filed an excited report from page 70 suggests that you've peaked early and may once more fall silent. I recommend that you instead start 2008 with "The Mark of Zorro" by Johnston McCulley. You would be a lock to finish this page-turner, and the confidence instilled by completion would help you to make another run at these harder works.

McCulley's book is also a nice introduction to the culture of Old Spanish California in the early 19th century. Although inaccurate in nearly every detail, its peppy prose makes it an ideal starting point.

Madison Guy said...

While Pynchon proved to be too steep a mountain to ascend in 2007, given real world time constraints, Exit Ghost, at a mere 304 pages, posed no such obstacle. Click here for my update.