this week’s rescue read

This week’s rescue read is The Ghost Writer, by Philip Roth. When I finish a book that I don’t really like, I search for one I do so that I can “rescue” my reading self from its wander into the wilderness. I’ve said here before that I’ve probably read The Ghost Writer thirty times, and while I have ready it many, many times, on reflection I don’t think it’s been thirty.

I came to the novel in the first year of my marriage (more than thirty years ago), and for a while I read it every year. I think there may have been a year when I read it twice even. But it is part of a trilogy (and the central character makes appearances in other Roth novels not related to the trilogy) so when I finish this novel, I tend to pick up the next two, and that, along with reading everything else in the world, tends to spread out my visits.

I think it’s safe to say, however, that I’ve read The Ghost Writer more than twenty times. Many people find American Pastoral to be Roth’s greatest novel. Some cite The Human Stain. Some even think Sabbath’s Theater earns the title (in which Roth first discovered his angry old man theme). But if I were going to introduce someone to Roth’s writings, I would make the case for The Ghost Writer, at least as the best place to begin.

Add to this the fact that the central character is in search of a new spiritual father and you can see why I like it so much.

Here is a single sentence from the novel. A young, aspiring writer is meeting who he thinks is his hero novelist:

In fact, the writer who found irresistible all vital and dubious types, not excluding the swindlers of both sexes who trampled upon the large hearts of his optimistic, undone heroes; the writer who could locate the hypnotic core in the most devious American self-seeker and lead him to disclose, in spirited locutions all his own, the depths of his conniving soul; the writer whose absorption with “the grand human discord” made his every paragraph a little novel in itself, every page packed as tight as Dickens or Dostoevsky with the latest news of manias, temptations, passions, and dreams, with mankind aflame with feeling — well, in the flesh he gave the impression of being out to lunch.

Explore posts in the same categories: Rants and ruminations

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