Exit Ghost by Philip Roth
How close an alter-ego is Nathan Zuckerman to Philip Roth?
This, according to Philip Roth, will be the last book featuring his alter-ego Nathan Zuckerman. But how close an alter-ego is he? In this book, Roth has Zuckerman meeting – and objecting to – a biographer of a writer he knew, one E.I. Lonoff. Zuckerman's objection is that the biographer is confusing fact with fictional details in Lonoff's books. The book is generally about the difference between fact and fiction, which is somewhat confusing since most critics have assumed that Roth's Zuckerman books were largely autobiographical. Roth even has Zuckerman writing imagined dialogues between 'He' and 'She', dialogues clearly modelled on those between himself and Jamie Logan, the female half of a couple whom he arranges to swap houses with. So Roth is exploring the creative process by showing how it takes after real life, but this is very coy, in that he shows it mirroring life rather closely, with Zuckerman doubting that even Lonoff's fictions are too far from the truth. All of this can be fascinating, but this is the ninth Zuckerman book and as such benefits from some knowledge of the prequels. This is an extremely good read, but even so, the appeal here is largely for fans of Roth's earlier work. [Roy Hobbs]
Release Date: 4 Oct. Published by Jonathan Cape. Cover Price £16.99 hardback.