Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Exit Ghost by Philip Roth

How lust doth dance attendance on old age. The latest novel in Roth’s late flowering is much concerned with country matters. The itch never goes away – the ability to scratch it sadly does. Becket would be proud of a protagonist who’s not just impotent but also incontinent. And yet the fire burns. This novel is about his unrequited, and unrequitable lust for Jamie – the Texan heiress and writer manque. It’s also of course about the writer’s life and the vexed trade of the biographer.

It’s a riveting read. The critics complained about lacunae, the section on George Plimpton especially. I had no problem with this – and saw it as all of a part with the narrator’s decline. He saw Plimpton as an exemplar of the kind of physical engagement that he was no longer capable of.