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Exit Ghost by Philip Roth
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Exit Ghost (2007)

by Philip Roth

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Zuckerman Bound (9)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,337468,846 (3.52)66
  1. 10
    The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth (GabrielF)
    GabrielF: Exit Ghost takes place 50 years after The Ghost Writer, but it revisits the events and characters of the earlier book.
  2. 00
    Club der Unentwegten by Peter Schneider (JuliaMaria)
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» See also 66 mentions

English (35)  Dutch (7)  Italian (2)  Catalan (1)  French (1)  All languages (46)
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
I haven't read any Roth for a couple of years and this was a good one to come back to. Still concerned with writing, with his legacy, with his mortality, Zuckerman in his last has never been a more transparently, ghostly version of his creator. ( )
  asxz | Mar 13, 2019 |
I've been reading Philip Roth since college, way back in the previous century. GOODBYE, COLUMBUS; PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT; and, a particular favorite, LETTING GO, which I have read a few times now. So, upfront admission, I'm a fan, although probably not a very good one, since there are many Roth books I still have not read.

EXIT GHOST is purportedly the last of Roth's Zuckerman books, which began with THE GHOST WRITER, back in 1979. This is the ninth of the Z books, but I've only read a couple others: AMERICAN PASTORAL and THE HUMAN STAIN, both of them outstanding. In EXIT GHOST, we find Nathan Zuckerman at 71, at a low ebb in his eventful life as a writer. Impotent and incontinent after a prostatectomy a decade earlier, Nathan comes back from his twelve year sojourn in the Berkshire mountains to NYC to undergo a medical procedure that might correct his incontinence. While he is there he is drawn simultaneously back into his past and into an unwelcome present through some chance encounters with the former lover of E.I. Lonoff (both major players in the first book), and three young wannabe writers. Nathan falls hare, is enchanted by, one of these young people, thirty year-old Jamie Logan. Obviously, given his sexual dysfunction, he knows this can only end in heartbreak and frustration, but he is, nevertheless, drawn to this beautiful young woman of privilege, raised in Texas, where her parents are in the same social circles as the Bushes.

Because this last book is not just about love or sex. It's about the awful state of politics in America today, which Roth attacks through his characters. Set during the presidential campaign of 2004, Dubya gets it with both barrels. Here's a sample from Jamie -

"... this country is a haven of ignorance. I know - I come from the fountainhead. Bush talks right to the ignorant core. This is a very backward country, and the people are so easily bamboozled, and he's exactly like a snake-oil salesman."

Or this, from Richard Kliman, an ambitious young man who wants to write an expose biography of Lonoff -

"That a right-wing administration motivated by insatiable greed and sustained by murderous lies and led by a privileged dope should answer America's infantile idea of morality - how do we live with something so grotesque? How do you manage to insulate yourself from stupidity so bottomless?"

So yes, one begins to get an idea of how amply disgusted Philip Roth has become with our badly broken political system - and this is from a book published NINE years ago. I can't even imagine what he must think of what's happening right now with the circus that is the Trump-Clinton contest. Roth is also clearly unimpressed with the age of the ubiquitous cell phone, as evidenced in Nathan's observations about this phenomenon -

"I did not see how anyone could believe he was continuing to live a human existence by walking about talking into a phone for half his waking life. No, those gadgets did not promise to be a boon to promoting reflection among the general public."

But EXIT GHOST is also very much about aging and what comes with it. We see Lonoff's former lover, Amy, as an old woman with a disfiguring scar on her head from recent surgery for a brain tumor, and now the cancer has come back. And, more than anything, we are privy to Nathan's most private thoughts and humiliations and he deals with the daily problems of incontinence, forced to wear plastic underpants with absorbent pads, to be changed often. So, when the procedure fails to work, he is plunged into a deep depression, yet one more problem that so often afflicts the aged. Discouraged, he thinks -

"What you do not have, you live without - you're seventy-one, and that's the deal."

Nathan also feels his memory and mental faculties slipping, an unthinkable horror for a writer. And yet, judging from the "He and She" mini-plays he sprinkles throughout his narrative, he needn't worry just yet. They are brilliant - sometimes funny, and often ineffably sad. In sum, EXIT GHOST is a beautiful book, often heartbreakingly so.

Philip Roth announced his retirement a couple years ago. One doesn't think of writers retiring, but hey, he's earned it. Be well, Philip, and enjoy. Loved this book. Very highly recommended.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER ( )
  TimBazzett | Aug 29, 2016 |
I finally decided to pick up "Exit Ghost" after re-reading "Portnoy's Complaint" for the first time in perhaps fifteen years. Alexander Portnoy, and, really, Phillip Roth himself, is a ball of fire in that one, and while I haven't read all of the other Zuckerman books, I wondered how a personality like Alexander Portnoy's might age. "Exit Ghost" does provide a few possible answers to that question. When we meet Nathan Zuckerman, he's more or less withdrawn from the world, from sexual life, and is living more or less as a hermit, relying entirely on his past to give his writing the sustenance it needs. Though the book is, unsurprisingly, full of self-laceration and self-doubt, Zuckerman has, at the very least, the self-knowledge to recognize more-or-less what he was and what he is becoming. An unexpected trip to New York and a couple of chance encounters rock Nathan's boat, sure, but this is hardly surprising: you can count on self-reflection to be the strong suit of most of Roth's characters.

As a book, "Exit Ghost" feels a lot like Roth on autopilot, which is still a pretty good thing. The sentences flow beautifully and the novel is generally well-constructed. Despite the fact that its main character "re-discovers" New York after having been away for about a decade, the book is largely inward-focused. Readers shouldn't turn here to find novel critiques on modern living, and the jabs that Roth aims at modern readers and critics who care more for a writer's biography than for his work feel well aimed, but also out of place in a book that's narrated by a character who's essentially a lightly fictionalized version of its author. In the end, the best reasons for reading "Exit Ghost," besides, of course, its prose, are its characters and its depiction of aging. Roth presents us with the story of two couples: Amy and Manny -- he was a perhaps great writer who was dropped from reading lists long ago, she was his student and his last romance -- and Jamie and Billy, two aspiring writers who are facing challenges that are both different from and similar to those that the younger Zuckerman once faced. While it's clear that Zuckerman's brain is failing him, he still manages, using his sharp eye and deep understanding of human motivation, to pay homage to each of these relationships, which seem both familiar and maddeningly unique, as are most relationships, if you observe them long enough. Each of these characters comes alive, inspiring, by turns, interest, sexual intrigue, affection and, particularly in the case of Amy, a deep sense of pathos. As for Roth's portrait of aging, it's pretty spare: Zuckerman omits all the usual aches and pains to describe only how age has robbed him of his bladder control, his sexual potency and, increasingly, his memory. But it's enough. The sense of loss imparted to the reader as a yet undiagnosed affliction robs him of his short-term memory seems very real indeed. I'm not sure I'd call "Exit Ghost" an important novel: it feels more like an epilogue, a sad, necessary denouement to a long-running series. But it's recommended to Roth's fans, and there are still lots of those out there. ( )
1 vote TheAmpersand | Jan 18, 2016 |
I detest this kind of writing.

This holier-than-thou, you hordes of lower intellect won’t really understand, but herein, I undertake to impart my exalted cerebral wisdom, by infesting my story with tiresome diatribes about things on which my higher erudition deems necessary that you lower untrained classes should change your thinking. And yes, thank you, I do consider myself worthy of your adoration.

Gag. But that’s what I thought of the author while slogging through this thing.

Did his words flow prettily? Yes.
Did he make his physical settings come alive? Not so much.
The story, even, could have been interesting, minus all the brainwashing.

He has one character, while listening to another, think, “I let him go on in that self-delighted and domineering way.” Really? Mister – that describes your whole book. ( )
1 vote countrylife | Aug 22, 2014 |
It's a wonderful story and it's written in a marvellous language. Zuckerman, who is living since eleven years away from New York in a quiet neighbourhood in the country, is coming back to the city for a medical examination. He is overwhelmed by the bustling activities of New York and has to learn in a hard way that he no longer belongs to this kind of life. One week long his feelings are going up and down. He meets a young writer couple with whom he would like to swap home for one year. Especially the young woman attracts him and he starts daydreaming about an affair with her. While in reality this wouldn't be possible he starts writing a second story within the main story. A young writer is hassling him to get information about a writer example of Zuckerman's earlier time. While Zuckerman is refusing his assistance the young man is getting more and more ornery. In the end Zuckerman is taking refuge to his lonely home in the country. ( )
  Ameise1 | Feb 9, 2013 |
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Before death takes you, O take back this.
-Dylan Thomas, "Find Meat on Bones"
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For B.T.
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I hadn't been in New York in eleven years. Other than for surgery in Boston to remove a cancerous prostate, I'd hardly been off my rural mountain road in the Berkshires in those eleven years and, what's more, had rarely looked at a newspaper or listened to the news since 9/11, three years back; with no sense of loss--merely, at the outset, a kind of drought within me--I had ceased to inhabit not just the great world but the present moment. The impulse to be in it and of it I had long since killed.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0618915478, Hardcover)

The last ordeal of Nathan Zuckerman, the indomitable literary adventurer of Roth's nine Zuckerman books, 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.

Exit Zuckerman: Talking with Philip Roth

When we talked with Philip Roth for the Amazon Wire podcast, we asked him about his long relationship with his fictional surrogate, Nathan Zuckerman, his decision to bring Zuckerman back (and say goodbye to him) in Exit Ghost, and the difficulties of aging for novelists, and we managed to touch on George Plimpton, Annie Dillard, Grace Paley, and The Tempest, along with nearly all of the nine Zuckerman books. You can listen to interview in the podcast above, or read the full transcript.

Zuckerman Returns to Manhattan: Philip Roth Reads from Exit Ghost

When Nathan Zuckerman returns to Manhattan from his self-imposed rural retreat for the first time in 11 years in Exit Ghost, what does he find? Along with his surprising and unsettling encounters with an aged and ill woman who had once been a young mystery to him, an aggressive biographer who won't take no for an answer, and an alluring young writer who tempts him back into the adventure of seduction, he is confronted with a city whose streets are filled with people behaving quite differently than a decade before. "For one who frequently went without talking to anyone for days at a time," he thinks. "I had to wonder what that had previously held them up had collapsed in people to make incessant talking into a telephone preferable to walking about under no one's surveillance, momentarily solitary, assimilating the street through one's animal senses and thinking the myriad thoughts that the activities of a city inspire." Listen to Philip Roth read an excerpt from Exit Ghost.

Looking Back on Zuckerman The Ghost Writer: Introduces Nathan Zuckerman in the 1950s, a budding writer who spends a night in the secluded New England farmhouse of his idol, E. I. Lonoff, and meets a haunting young woman whom he imagines could be the paradigmatic victim of Nazi persecution. Zuckerman Unbound: Zuckerman, with newfound fame as a bestselling author, ventures onto the streets of Manhattan in the final year of the turbulent '60s, where he is assumed by fans and enemies to be his own fictional satyr, Gilbert Carnovsky ("Hey, you do all that stuff in that book?"). The Anatomy Lesson: At 40, Zuckerman comes down with a mysterious affliction--pure pain, beginning in his neck and shoulders, invading his torso, and taking possession of his spirit. Zuckerman is unable to write a line, but the novel provides some of the funniest and fiercest scenes in all of Roth's fiction. The Prague Orgy: In quest of the unpublished manuscript of a martyred Yiddish writer, Zuckerman travels to Soviet-occupied Prague in the mid-1970s, where he discovers, among the oppressed writers with whom he quickly becomes embroiled, an appealingly perverse kind of heroism. Zuckerman Bound: The latest in the Library of America's collected Roth works brings together his first Zuckerman trilogy, The Ghost Writer, Zuckerman Unbound, and The Anatomy Lesson, along with the epilogue, The Prague Orgy. The Counterlife: From New Jersey to England to the West Bank, the characters in The Counterlife, illuminated by the skeptical, enveloping intelligence of Nathan Zuckerman, are tempted unceasingly by the prospect of an alternative existence that can reverse their fate. American Pastoral: Swede Levov, legendary high-school athlete and boyhood idol of Nathan Zuckerman, is wrenched overnight out of the American pastoral and into the indigenous American berserk when his teenage daughter proves capable of an outlandishly savage act of political terrorism. I Married a Communist: The rise and fall of Ira Ringold, a big American roughneck who becomes a big-time 1940s radio star, takes the young Zuckerman under his wing, and is destroyed, as both a performer and a man, in the McCarthy witchhunt of the 1950s. The Human Stain: Coleman Silk, an aging classics professor forced to retire when his colleagues decree that he is a racist, has a secret, kept for 50 years from all around him, including his friend Nathan Zuckerman, who sets out to understand how this ingeniously contrived life came unraveled.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:11 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"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."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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