The Counterlife (18 cents)

Let’s talk about Philip Roth. When I read “Good-bye Columbus”, about 40 years ago, I loved it. I thought it really described reality as I saw it. When I read “Portnoy’s Complaint” a few years later, I didn’t understand it at all, I don’t think; I certainly didn’t like it. It did not describe any reality I was familiar with. And then, I stopped reading Philip Roth.

Until about a year ago, when I started to read “The Plot Against America”, the story of the Lindbergh presidency. I got about half way through and said to myself “what a waste of time”, and put it aside.

But now, we have enrolled in a modern Jewish literature course being given at Georgetown University, and our first book was Philip Roth’s “The Counterlife”. I have to admit that I had no recollection of ever hearing about “The Counterlife”, although perhaps I had. I started the book with no particular expectation. I enjoyed the first section of the book, describing the death of New Jersey dentist Henry Zuckerman after heart surgery, hiding the existence of his mistress/hygienist Wendy and his former mistress Maria from his devoted wife Carol, and the reaction of his more or less estranged surviving brother Nathan. But I was completed thrown for a loop (a good loop), when I read the second section of the book, when I discovered the world was not as it seemed and it kept me going to the end, with its many twists and turns and switches and switchbacks.

I am not going to give anything away here, but recommend this book very highly, and now would like to read more Roth, and especially more of his Zuckerman books.

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