Review

The Ghost Writer

by Philip Roth



In the first novel to feature the famous alter-ego of Philip Roth,
Nathan Zuckerman is a budding writer. With only a few short stories
under his belt, Zuckerman is about to meet a man who inspired him
to write:

"Before I had composure enough to notice the commanding, autocratic
angle at which he held his chin, or the regal, meticulous, rather
dainty care he took to arrange his clothes before sitting --- to
notice anything, really, other than that I had miraculously made it
from my unliterary origins to here, to him --- my impression was
that E. I. Lonoff looked more like the local superintendent of
schools than the region's most original storyteller since Melville
and Hawthorne."

Lonoff and his wife generously welcome Zuckerman into their home
after being impressed by several of Nathan's short stories. Struck
nearly dumb with awe, Zuckerman walks over the threshold into a
world he believes is filled with wonder and imagination. What he's
looking for is advice from the sage, a fellow Jewish writer whose
reputation and standing is beyond reproach.

Lonoff tells him, "I turn sentences around. That's my life. I write
a sentence and then I turn it around. Then I look at it and I turn
it around again. Then I have lunch. Then I come back in and write
another sentence."

Undeterred by the sheer simplicity of the master's method,
Zuckerman is treated to an afternoon of food and fascinating
conversation, not to mention accolades on his own
writing.  When he meets a young research assistant who is
helping Lonoff organize his papers, Zuckerman is love struck.

As day turns to evening and a snowstorm ensues, the Lonoff's offer
Zuckerman a room for the night. Zuckerman's thoughts return to the
lovely research assistant and his mind takes off on a flight of
fancy that is both compelling and, to Zuckerman at least, nearly
believable. Who she is, or isn't, leads us down a path that Roth
navigates with skill and daring.

At the heart of THE GHOST WRITER is the dilemma of a young writer
forced to confront the real-life faces of those people who inspire
his writing, the effect of his words on their lives, and the role
of a Jewish writer whose voice speaks for that disenfranchised
group of people.



Reviewed by Vern Wiessner on January 22, 2011

The Ghost Writer
by Philip Roth

  • Publication Date: August 1, 1995
  • Genres: Fiction, Literary Fiction
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • ISBN-10: 0679748989
  • ISBN-13: 9780679748984