Philip Roth’s Literary Exodus
Today on Tablet, look at Roth’s decision to call it quits
Did Philip Roth leave clues in his novels that he would be calling his storied career to a close? David Hadar dives into the texts.
But it seems that many years before facing old age, Roth was already fascinated by the idea of looking at his career and knowing that it is over. The first of the Zuckerman books, The Ghost Writer, published in 1979, features Zuckerman as a young aspiring writer. Having published a number of short stories, he visits a potential mentor E. I. Lonoff who is at the height of his career. In retrospect, the older Zuckerman narrating the novel can tell us that not many years later Lonoff would die and not publish anything new for a while before his death. Thus, Zuckerman can assess Lonoff’s entire oeuvre, letting us know that Lonoff’s work was nearly done when they met. The young Zuckerman is witnessing a writer nearing the end of his career and asking whether it was worth the effort.
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