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For the latest installment in his autobiographical series (collected in Zuckerman Bound , LJ 7/85), Roth has written a puzzle, but one with passion and purpose. Its mysteries, more logical than magical, concern whether either Zuckerman brother, Nathan the novelist or Henry the dentist, has suffered impotence from drugs prescribed for a heart condition and has subsequently died during a bypass operation. Each of the book's five chapters, ranging from New York to Israel to London and environs, is contradicted by what follows, until the end reminds us forcefully that The Counterlife is, like any novel, neither true nor false but counterfactual. Along the way, monologues, eulogies, letters, interviews, and conversations ponder Judaism and Zionism, the nature of personality, the competing claims of imagination and life, and (Roth being Roth) sex. Recommended. Hugh M. Crane, Brockton P.L., Mass. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Noted and reviled Jewish writer Nathan Zuckerman returns with a cast of familiar Roth types, but the thorny style and the technical complexities introduce a new stage in Roth's career. (N 15 86 Upfront)
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Philip Roth's latest novel is simultaneously his most experimental and, paradoxically, quite familiar to his regular readers in subject matter. The primary characters, the novelist Nathan Zuckerman and his dentist brother Henry, have appeared often in Roth's recent fiction. The themes, too, grow naturally out of such earlier works as My Life As a Man (CH, Oct '74) or Zuckerman Bound (1985). Here again are Roth's recurrent preoccupations: the plight of the Jewish-American male, the nature of sexual obsession, and above all the process of transmuting experience into fiction. Never before has Roth dealt in so daring and compelling a manner with the relationship between life and art. The novel is both experimental and accessible in that it presents a series of carefully articulated, apparently contradictory, possibilities, which serve to illuminate rather than undercut one another. For example, Henry Zuckerman dies during heart surgery in the first section. In the second, he has made a new life in Israel, where Nathan visits him. Later still, it is Henry who attends the funeral of Nathan, who has died of the same surgical procedure. This constant rearranging of the possibilities of life and fiction results in one of Roth's most polished works. His concerns appear to remain familiar, but he continues to test the limits of his art. Recommended for college and university libraries.-B.H. Leeds, Central Connecticut State University