The Professor of Desire [NOOK Book]

Overview


Philip Roth's The Professor of Desire is the story of an adventurous man of intelligence and feeling trying to make his way to both pleasure and dignity through a world of sensual possibilities.  Temptation comes to him in both ordinary and spectacular forms, and the novel charts the history of his desire from the early years, when he accedes to it totally, to the time when he attempts to domesticate his passions (and his wife's) and finally to that most surprising moment when desire ebbs and, ...
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The Professor of Desire

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Overview


Philip Roth's The Professor of Desire is the story of an adventurous man of intelligence and feeling trying to make his way to both pleasure and dignity through a world of sensual possibilities.  Temptation comes to him in both ordinary and spectacular forms, and the novel charts the history of his desire from the early years, when he accedes to it totally, to the time when he attempts to domesticate his passions (and his wife's) and finally to that most surprising moment when desire ebbs and, frighteningly, seems on the brink of disappearance.  The book explores, in all its painful ramifications, the pursuit and loss of erotic happiness.
Among the variety of places that comprise this world of sensual possibilities are the mountaintop resort hotel where David Kepesh spends his boyhood, the college in upstate New York where he begins life as a passionate man by describing himself to coeds he hopes to seduce with Lord Byron's dictum, "studious by day, dissolute by night"; a basement flat in London, where he lives with two Swedish girls, one of whom he even thinks fleetingly of turning into a prostitute.  Drawing back from all that he comes to recognize as dangerous in himself, he takes up a serious, responsible vocation--as a professor of literature--but then, later, in California, takes up with Helen Baird, a young woman in flight from her own adventurous years in the Far East, which culminated in a narrowly aborted murder plot against her lover's wife.  David marries this woman whom he thinks of as a "heroine," courageous in her sensual abandon as well as in her renunciations.  The marriage, always at cross purposes, ends in disaster.  Back now in New York City, Kepesh falls into a state of spiritual despair and physical impotence over the unhappiness he has caused himself and others.  In his small sublet apartment he entertains his aging parents, who are puzzled by the course their only son's personal life has taken.  While a persistent homosexual stranger conducts a ridiculous siege outside the door, and a champion womanizer attempts to reconvert him to satyrism, David himself wonders about his future as a lover of anyone.  Then he meets Claire Ovington, a loving and orderly young teacher, "the most extraordinary ordinary person I've ever met."  While in Europe on a romantic holiday, they travel to Kafka's grave in Prague, and afterwards, asleep in his mistress's arms, David dreams of a bizarre encounter with "Kafka's whore." Finally, in a rented Catskill house not far from the resort hotel where he was raised, David and Claire spend an idyllic summer, seemingly blessed by permanence and love. Kepesh's widowed father arrives for Labor Day weekend, with his friend, a concentration-camp survivor who has become old Mr. Kepesh's dearest companion.  Their presence reinforces David's growing sense of the fragility of all existence, and in the last third of this novel--in a long conclusion that may be as moving as anything in contemporary fiction--Roth brings together all the strands of Kepesh's story in final scenes that are distinguished by an incomparably elegiac tone.

A brilliant, lustful man is overloaded with fantasies.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
LJ's reviewer dubbed this volume ``an entertaining, mature exploration of the conflicts of passion and reason'' LJ 9/15/77. The plot follows protagonist David Kepesh, who moves between a life of scholarship and carnal adventure. The paperback publication of Roth's Operation Shylock LJ 4/15/93 should generate interest in this earlier novel.
Charles McGrath
....[T]houghtful, stylistically elegant novel about the paradox of male desire. -- The New York Times Books of the Century
From the Publisher
"Ranks among the major achievements in the literature of our time." —Village Voice

"No one writing can juggle the somber and the ludicrous more adroitly than Roth." —Time

"Philip Roth is a great historian of modern eroticism.... [He] speaks of a sexuality that questions itself; it is still hedonism, but it is problematic, wounded, ironic hedonism. His is the uncommon union of confession and irony. Infinitely vulnerable in his sincerity and infinitely elusive in his irony." —Milan Kundera

"A thoughtful...elegant novel.... A fine display of literary skills." —The New York Times Book Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781466846463
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 7/2/2013
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 475,140
  • File size: 606 KB

Meet the Author

Philip Roth

Philip Roth was born in New Jersey in 1933.  He studied literature at Bucknell University and the University of Chicago.  His first book, Goodbye, Columbus, won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1960.  He has lived in Rome, London, Chicago, New York City, Princeton, and New England.  Since 1955, he has been on the faculties of the University of Chicago, Princeton University, and the University of Pennsylvania, where is now Adjunct Professor of English.  He is also General Editor of the Penguin Books series "Writers from the Other Europe."  Recently he has been spending half of each year in Europe, traveling and writing.

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

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