ZUCKERMAN UNBOUND, the second book in the Zuckerman series
following THE GHOST WRITER, details the fortunes of writer Nathan
Zuckerman, Philip Roth's alter-ego. Zuckerman has reached star
status as his wildly ribald and profane portrait of a young Jewish
man's sexual adventures, "Carnovsky," places him on the top rung of
the ladder of literary success, and makes him a target of the
traditional Jewish establishment who proclaim him a self-hating
Jew. Intimidated by the attention, Zuckerman seeks his privacy in
the wake of all the hoopla.
On a trip to Florida to visit his mother and dying father,
Zuckerman comes face to face with the impact of his newfound fame.
His mother has suffered harassing phone calls and everywhere she
goes she is confronted with questions as the woman who bore the
infamous "Carnovsky." His father, surrounded by family on his
deathbed, curses Zuckerman just before he dies.
The most scathing indictment comes from his brother. "Do you really
think conscience is a Jewish invention from which you are immune?
Do you really think you can just go have a good time with the rest
of the swingers without troubling yourself about conscience?
Without troubling about anything but seeing how funny you can be
about the people who have loved you most in the world...when all he
wanted to hear was 'I love you!'... Oh, you miserable bastard,
don't you tell me about fathers and sons!"
Back home in New York, Zuckerman confronts another problem; a rabid
fan who idolizes Zuckerman and claims that "Carnovsky" was a
portrayal of his own life begins to stalk Zuckerman. Alvin Pepler
had his 15 minutes of fame as the reigning champion of a quiz show
during the 1950s, but his star fell after a scandal questioning the
show's credibility. Now attempting to write his own story, he's
latched onto Zuckerman and won't let go. This manic character
provides some of the richest scenes in the book and almost manages
to steal the spotlight from Zuckerman.
Filled with numerous passages of Roth's biting wit and wondrous
prose, ZUCKERMAN UNBOUND is an example of a writer at his
tragicomic best. With brutal honesty, Roth faces his and
Zuckerman's critics as he further explores the pressures,
responsibilities and resulting impact of putting pen to paper and
baring one's soul.
Reviewed by Vern Wiessner on January 24, 2011