Letting Go

( 4 )

Overview

Letting Go is Roth's first full-length novel, published just after Goodbye, Columbus, when he was twenty-nine. Set in 1950s Chicago, New York, and Iowa city, Letting Go presents as brilliant a fictional portrait as we have of a mid-century America defined by social and ethical constraints and by moral compulsions conspicuously different from those of today.

Newly discharged from the Korean War army, reeling from his mother's recent death, freed from old attachments and hungrily ...

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Letting Go

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Overview

Letting Go is Roth's first full-length novel, published just after Goodbye, Columbus, when he was twenty-nine. Set in 1950s Chicago, New York, and Iowa city, Letting Go presents as brilliant a fictional portrait as we have of a mid-century America defined by social and ethical constraints and by moral compulsions conspicuously different from those of today.

Newly discharged from the Korean War army, reeling from his mother's recent death, freed from old attachments and hungrily seeking others, Gabe Wallach is drawn to Paul Herz, a fellow graduate student in literature, and to Libby, Paul's moody, intense wife. Gabe's desire to be connected to the ordered "world of feeling" that he finds in books is first tested vicariously by the anarchy of the Herzes' struggles with responsible adulthood and then by his own eager love affairs. Driven by the desire to live seriously and act generously, Gabe meets an impassable test in the person of Martha Reganhart, a spirited, outspoken, divorced mother of two, a formidable woman who, according to critic James Atlas, is masterfully portrayed with "depth and resonance."

The complex liason between Gabe and Martha and Gabe's moral enthusiasm for the trials of others are at the heart of this tragically comic work.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A first novel of awesome maturity." —James Atlas

"A rich book, full of incident, wry and sad and even in its most desolating scene somehow amusing." —Elizabeth Hardwick, Harper's

"[Roth] has the finest eye for the details of American life since Sinclair Lewis." —Stanley Edgar Hyman

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The protagonist of Roth's first full-length novel vicariously explores the angst of love and marriage. (Sept.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679764175
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/28/1997
  • Series: Vintage International Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 640
  • Sales rank: 384,425
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.15 (d)

Meet the Author

Philip Roth
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, previously awarded to John Dos Passos, William Faulkner, and Saul Bellow, among others. He has twice won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has 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.” Recently Roth received PEN’s two most prestigious prizes: in 2006 the PEN/Nabokov Award and in 2007 the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for achievement in American fiction. Roth is the only living American writer to have his work published in a comprehensive, definitive edition by the Library of America.

Biography

Philip Roth's long and celebrated career has been something of a thorn in the side of the writer. As it is for so many, fame has been the proverbial double-edged sword, bringing his trenchant tragic-comedies to a wide audience, but also making him a prisoner of expectations and perceptions. Still, since 1959, Roth has forged along, crafting gorgeous variations of the Great American Novel and producing, in addition, an autobiography (The Facts) and a non-fictional account of his father's death (Patrimony: A True Story).

Roth's novels have been oft characterized as "Jewish literature," a stifling distinction that irks Roth to no end. Having grown up in a Jewish household in a lower-middle-class sub-section of Newark, New Jersey, he is incessantly being asked where his seemingly autobiographical characters end and the author begins, another irritant for Roth. He approaches interviewers with an unsettling combination of stoicism, defensiveness, and black wit, qualities that are reflected in his work. For such a high-profile writer, Roth remains enigmatic, seeming to have laid his life out plainly in his writing, but refusing to specify who the real Philip Roth is.

Roth's debut Goodbye, Columbus instantly established him as a significant writer. This National Book Award winner was a curious compendium of a novella that explored class conflict and romantic relationships and five short stories. Here, fully formed in Roth's first outing, was his signature wit, his unflinching insightfulness, and his uncanny ability to satirize his character's situations while also presenting them with humanity. The only missing element of his early work was the outrageousness he would not begin to cultivate until his third full-length novel Portnoy's Complaint -- an unquestionably daring and funny post-sexual revolution comedy that tipped Roth over the line from critically acclaimed writer to literary celebrity.

Even as Roth's personal relationships and his relationship to writing were severely shaken following the success of Portnoy's Complaint, he continued publishing outrageous novels in the vein of his commercial breakthrough. There was Our Gang, a parodic attack on the Nixon administration, and The Breast, a truly bizarre take on Kafka's Metamorphosis, and My Life as a Man, the pivotal novel that introduced Roth's literary alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman.

Zuckerman would soon be the subject of his very own series, which followed the writer's journey from aspiring young artist with lofty goals to a bestselling author, constantly bombarded by idiotic questions, to a man whose most important relationships have all but crumbled in the wake of his success. The Zuckerman Trilogy (The Ghost Writer, Zuckerman Unbound, and The Counterlife) directly paralls Roth's career and unfolds with aching poignancy and unforgiving humor.

Zuckerman would later reemerge in another trilogy, although this time he would largely be relegated to the role of narrator. Roth's American Trilogy (I Married a Communist, the PEN/Faulkner Award winning The Human Stain, and The Plot Against America), shifts the focus to key moments in the history of late-20th –century American history.

In Everyman (2006) , Roth reaches further back into history. Taking its name from a line of 15th-century English allegorical plays, Everyman is classic Roth -- funny, tragic, and above all else, human. It is also yet another in a seemingly unbreakable line of critical favorites, praised by Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and The Library Journal.

In 2007's highly anticipated Exit Ghost, Roth returned Nathan Zuckerman to his native Manhattan for one final adventure, thus bringing to a rueful, satisfying conclusion one of the most acclaimed literary series of our day. While this may (or may not) be Zuckerman's swan song, it seems unlikely that we have seen the last Philip Roth. Long may he roar.

Good To Know

Before publishing his first novel, Roth wrote an episode of the suspenseful TV classic Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

A film adaptation of American Pastoral is currently in the works. Australian director Phillip Noyce (Rabbit Proof Fence; Patriot Games) is on board to direct.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Philip Milton Roth
    2. Hometown:
      Connecticut
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 19, 1933
    2. Place of Birth:
      Newark, New Jersey
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English, Bucknell University, 1954; M.A. in English, University of Chicago, 1955

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 23, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    While this might not be his best work, "Letting Go" is

    While this might not be his best work, "Letting Go" is still an impressive novel about a forgotten time period and the disastrous choices we can make in our youth. Worth reading if you don't mind a 620 page novel.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 27, 2011

    Expected Much Better

    Recently, i've been very into Philip Roth. I've read Portnoy's Complaint, Goodbye Columbus, and The Human Stain, and I loved all three of them. Letting Go, however, is not nearly up to par with Roth's other work, and while it did have enormous potential, I found many flaws in it.

    First of all, the novel should have been about 200 pages shorter. There was a lot of unnecessary dialogue, followed by unnecessary prose. Many of the scenes were repetitive to the point of being annoying.

    The book, mainly about how the conservative conformity of the 1950's was so against human nature, is one where you wait for something to happen, you yearn for that "AHA" moment, all to no avail. Nothing major ever happens, Roth, uncharacteristically, never shocks or surprises. The characters, for the most part, are miserable and unlikeable figures whom many will probably find unrelatable.

    If the book does have one thing going for it, however, it is how Roth's lyrical writing shines throughout the 620 page novel. Perhaps if it were shorter and more concise, Letting Go could have been one of Roth's better works.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2000

    AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!

    This book is the best i have ever read

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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