What is the principal deception at the heart of Philip Roth's novel
DECEPTION? Is it truth disguised as fiction or vice versa? Is it
the deception of one lover's infidelity? At the end of the book,
you're still not sure, and that is where the power of this work
lies...in its ability to evoke the dual sense of thinking you know
what's going on, but having shreds of doubt creep into your own
DECEPTION is writing at its simplest. It is a work of pure
dialogue. This dialogue takes place in the pre- and post-coital
phases of a relationship between two lovers. One of the lovers is
an author named Philip who has as one of the characters in his
fiction a man named Zuckerman --- facts that correspond to those in
the life of Philip Roth.
Philip's lover finds a notebook in which Philip describes a love
affair with a Polish woman. Infuriated by what she
thinks is proof of his infidelity, she confronts Philip. He
replies, "I have imagined a love affair --- I do it all the time.
Not the way most men do, while clutching their dicks, but because
that is my work."
When asked if he intends to publish this work "shed of all the
expository fat," creating a situation where readers will not know
that its an "imagination of love," Philip retorts:
"They generally don't, so what difference does it make? I write
fiction and I'm told it's autobiography, I write autobiography and
I'm told it's fiction, so since I'm so dim and they're so smart,
let them decide what it is or it isn't."
Whether it's fiction or fact, what it does prove to be is
thoroughly engrossing. Two people emerge at their most intimate,
when their guards are let down and emotions are raw, totally
exposed. It plays to that dark, voyeuristic side of the reader
while at the same time casting doubt on all we've read. You may be
enthralled or you may be disturbed, but when you're through, you'll
thank Roth for his DECEPTION.
Reviewed by Vern Wiessner on January 21, 2011