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A reader like me will read 50 books in the hope of stumbling on just one that makes her feel like this. Exit Ghost is that rare genius of fiction which elevates the mind to a place it hasn't been since it tried to understand literature in high school. Philip Roth is so dark and painful and brilliant and old. His writing is all of those things too, and so human. This novel reminds me of his last, Everyman, in that it deals so directly with old age and death and decay and fear of insignificance. But somehow this is elevating. I don't know how he does it. Probably because he is a genius and I am not. What I am is a reader who loves to be challenged by a master who is still alive and writing in my day, including thoughts about George Bush's re-election and 9-11 and the death of George Plimpton, another writer I enjoyed and idolized.
This is Phillips Roth's 28th book, a feat as unimaginable as the beauty of his words in this, the final book in the Nathan Zuckerman series. For those not familiar, Zuckerman is Roth's alter-ego. He began the series in 1979 with The Ghost Writer and concludes it now with Zuckerman coming back to New York City from his self-imposed exile, coming back to his haunts and his fears, to the writer he is and always was. He encounters so many old ghosts in the form of old friends and new young men who remind him terribly of his former, virile self.
Language like this will stop you cold: "There was a time when intelligent people used literature to think." How do you read a line like that in a novel and keep going without pause? I will read this book a second time, but hopefully much slower than I devoured it at first. A hearty thumbs' up for the literary novel, Exit Ghost, but Philip Roth.