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Exit Ghost

Exit Ghost

4.2 9
by Philip Roth

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Like Rip Van Winkle returning to his hometown to find that all has changed, Nathan Zuckerman comes back to New York, the city he left eleven years before. Alone on his New England mountain, Zuckerman has been nothing but a writer: no voices, no media, no terrorist threats, no women, no news, no tasks other than his work and the enduring of old age.



Like Rip Van Winkle returning to his hometown to find that all has changed, Nathan Zuckerman comes back to New York, the city he left eleven years before. Alone on his New England mountain, Zuckerman has been nothing but a writer: no voices, no media, no terrorist threats, no women, no news, no tasks other than his work and the enduring of old age.

Walking the streets like a revenant, he quickly makes three connections that explode his carefully protected solitude. One is with a young couple with whom, in a rash moment, he offers to swap homes. They will flee post-9/11 Manhattan for his country refuge, and he will return to city life. 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. I. Lonoff. 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.” Suddenly involved, as he never wanted or intended to be involved again, with love, mourning, desire, and animosity, Zuckerman plays out an interior drama of vivid and poignant possibilities.

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.

Editorial Reviews

Clive James
Exit Ghost is just too fascinating to leave alone…this book is latter-day Roth at his intricately thoughtful best…
—The New York Times Book Review
Michael Dirda
This being Philip Roth, Exit Ghost manages some occasional laughter in the dark…and, again, this being Philip Roth, the novel is sometimes brutally sexual (the description of Jamie's past, whether imagined or actual). Above all, though, the book shows us a man trying to work with the cards that fate has dealt him—and to accommodate himself to the diminution of his mental and physical powers. In this struggle, any of us can see our own destinies, whether we are "no-longers" or "not-yets." As Leon Trotsky, no less, said with simple truth: "Old age is the most unexpected of all the things that happen to a man."
—The Washington Post
Michiko Kakutani
Mr. Roth has created a melancholy, if occasionally funny, meditation on aging, mortality, loneliness and the losses that come with the passage of time…Compared with Mr. Roth's big postwar trilogy (American Pastoral, I Married a Communist and The Human Stain), which unfolded into a bold chronicle of American innocence and disillusionment, this volume is definitely a modest undertaking, but it has a sense of heartfelt emotion lacking in Everyman and Dying Animal, and for fans of the Zuckerman books, it provides a poignant coda to Nathan's story, putting a punctuation point to his journey from youthful idealism and passion through midlife confusion and angst toward elderly renunciation.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Philip Roth's 28th book is, it seems, the final novel in the Zuckerman series, which began in 1979 with The Ghostwriter. A 71-year-old Nathan Zuckerman returns to New York after more than a decade in rural New England, ostensibly to see a doctor about a prostate condition that has left him incontinent and probably impotent. But Zuckerman being Zuckerman and Roth being Roth, the plot is much more complicated than it at first appears. Within a few days of arriving in New York, Zuckerman accidentally encounters Amy Bellette, the woman who was once the muse/wife of his beloved idol, writer S.I. Lonoff; he also meets a young novelist and promptly begins fantasizing about the writer's young and beautiful wife. There's also a subplot about a would-be Lonoff biographer, who enrages Zuckerman with his brashness and ambition, two qualities a faithful Roth reader can't help ascribing to the young, sycophantic Zuckerman himself. As usual, Roth's voice is wise and full of rueful wit, but the plot is contrived (the accidental meeting with Amy, for example, is particularly unbelievable) and the tone hovers dangerously close to pathetic. In the Rothian pantheon, this one lives closer to The Dying Animalthan Everyman. (Oct.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

In Roth's ninth installment in the Zuckerman saga, the reclusive author leaves his mountain retreat in the Berkshires to return to New York City for a promising new treatment for incontinence, a lingering reminder of his battle with prostate cancer. Almost immediately, Zuckerman is contacted by Richard Kliman, a brash young journalist who is working on a biography of the long-forgotten writer E.I. Lonoff, one of Zuckerman's mentors and the subject of Roth's first (and best) Zuckerman novel, The Ghost Writer(1979). Scandalous new details have emerged about Lonoff's sex life, and Kliman wants to break the story. Zuckerman resents Kliman's Zuckerman-like ambition, and argues heatedly that Lonoff's literary work is the only thing that matters. His private life is off limits. Meanwhile, Zuckerman becomes obsessed with a beautiful, wealthy young Texan and imagines an elaborate seduction, which he is simply too old and too sick to put into effect. While not one of Roth's strongest works, this novel has all the elements: unreliable narrators, authorial games, meditations on the use and abuse of literature, and a firm grounding in the reality of post-9/11 New York. Recommended for most fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ6/15/07.]
—Edward B. St. John

From the Publisher

Zuckerman may die. Roth will die. Readers will die. Literature lives on.
Kirkus Reviews

As usual, Roth's voice is wise and full of rueful wit...
Publishers Weekly

...agonizingly real yet gorgeously rendered...
Booklist, ALA, Starred Review

Product Details

Penguin Canada
Publication date:
Nathan Zuckerman Series
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.81(d)

Read an Excerpt

I walked to West 71st Street, startled, at Columbus Circle, to see that the bulky fortress of the Coliseum had metamorphosed into a pair of glass skyscrapers joined at the hip and lined at street level with swanky shops. I wandered into the arcade and out, and when I continued north on Broadway it was not so much that I felt myself in a foreign country but as though some optical trick were being played on me so that things appeared as in the reflection of a funhouse mirror, everything simultaneously familiar and unrecognizable. Not without some hardship, I'd conquered the solitary's way of life, knew its tests and satisfactions, and over time had shaped the scope of my needs to its limitations, long ago abandoning excitement, intimacy, adventure, and antagonisms in favor of quiet, steady, predictable contact with nature and reading and my work. Why invite the unanticipated, why court any more shocks or surprises than those that aging would be sure to deliver without my prompting? Yet I continued up Broadway, past the crowds at Lincoln Center that I did not wish to join, the theater complexes whose movies I had no inclination to see, the leather goods shops and gourmet food shops whose merchandise I didn't care to buy, unwilling to oppose the power of the crazed hope of rejuvenation that was affecting all my actions.

Meet 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, previously awarded to John Dos Passos, William Faulkner and Saul Bellow, among others. He has twice won the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. 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" and the W.H. Smith Award for the Best Book of the Year, making Roth the first writer in the forty-six-year history of the prize to win it twice.

In 2005 Roth became the third living American writer to have his works published in a comprehensive, definitive edition by the Library of America. 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. In 2012 he won Spain’s highest honor, the Prince of Asturias Award, and in 2013 he received France’s highest honor, Commander of the Legion of Honor.

Brief Biography

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

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Exit Ghost 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 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
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CharlieDitkoff More than 1 year ago
I always wanted to know what happened to the characters in Ghost Writer. Glad Mr. Roth brought the situation to a resolution for me.