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by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & Exit Ghost & r & by Philip Roth & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & 'm too young to understand the perils of prostates: the crippling humiliation of incontinence, the sheer emasculating force of impotence. I don't understand, then, at a fundamental level, the Nathan Zuckerman that inhabits Philip Roth's Exit Ghost. Roth, either by failure of craft or by carefully crafted choice, does almost nothing to help me (or any other person with a functioning prostate, or the half of our species that has no prostate at all) understand him.





Zuckerman, Roth's surrogate in several previous novels, reappears here as a septuagenarian reeling from the cancer that robbed his man-parts of their dual function. Having lived alone in the Berkshires for a decade, now it's 2004 -- everyone in New York is reeling from 9/11 and the wars that have followed, everyone's sure Kerry's going to beat Bush -- and Zuckerman has descended from his mountain to have a medical procedure done. While there, he's drawn to an apartment swap opportunity that thrusts him back into the world of the intellectually hungry and the sexually capable. He quickly falls in love with a 30-year-old woman who'd never have him (though that doesn't stop him from beginning a new work in which she most certainly would). He also falls in a tense competition with a young Turk who wants help with a biography of E.I. Lonoff, Zuckerman's first writer-hero. The kid believes there's a great secret in the man's past, seemingly told of in an unpublished novel that destroyed Lonoff in the writing. Zuckerman, deep in his own fantasy, refuses to believe the novel could be an exorcism of real events.


Zuckerman, Roth's surrogate in several previous novels, reappears here as a septuagenarian reeling from the cancer that robbed his man-parts of their dual function. Having lived alone in the Berkshires for a decade, now it's 2004 -- everyone in New York is reeling from 9/11 and the wars that have followed, everyone's sure Kerry's going to beat Bush -- and Zuckerman has descended from his mountain to have a medical procedure done. While there, he's drawn to an apartment swap opportunity that thrusts him back into the world of the intellectually hungry and the sexually capable. He quickly falls in love with a 30-year-old woman who'd never have him (though that doesn't stop him from beginning a new work in which she most certainly would). He also falls in a tense competition with a young Turk who wants help with a biography of E.I. Lonoff, Zuckerman's first writer-hero. The kid believes there's a great secret in the man's past, seemingly told of in an unpublished novel that destroyed Lonoff in the writing. Zuckerman, deep in his own fantasy, refuses to believe the novel could be an exorcism of real events.





Zuckerman doesn't understand this new world (two early references are made, cloyingly, to Rip Van Winkle) and certainly feels it an antagonistic place waiting to destroy Lonoff's (and, eventually, Zuckerman's) reputation.

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