The Counterlife - book cover
  • Publisher : Vintage Books USA; New Ed edition
  • Published : 01 Oct 2005
  • Pages : 336
  • ISBN-10 : 0099481359
  • ISBN-13 : 9780099481355
  • Language : English

The Counterlife

The Counterlife is about people enacting their dreams of renewal and escape some of them going so far as to risk their lives to alter seemingly irreversible destinies Wherever they may find themselves the characters of The Counterlife are tempted unceasingly by the prospect of an alternative existence that can reverse their fate Illuminating these lives in transition and guiding us through the books evocative landscapes familiar and foreign is the mind of the novelist Nathan Zuckerman His is the sceptical enveloping intelligence that calculates the price thats paid in the struggle to change personal fortune and reshape history whether in a dentists office in suburban New Jersey or in a tradition-bound English Village in Gloucestershire or in a church in Londons West End or in a tiny desert settlement in Israels occupied West Bank

Readers Top Reviews

William Van BruntAnn
I have read about 75% of Roths output, and am usually stunned at his brilliance. Counterlife, on the other hand, was the first piece of his I actually dreaded opening up my Kindle Reader (on a Surface Pro). However, read it I did as no matter what his content or obsession might be, he is the master, and I bow down to him. Plenty of better positive and negative reviews here or elsewhere to see what others are blissed or angry only suggestion is that if you are a beginner to Roth, don't pick this one.
Richard J. Peppin
I do not know how Roth can consistently write such teriffic books. This book was hard for me to read, it was hard to follow, but I kept at it and only put it down when I had to. Counterlife is about Nate and Henry Zuckerman and their "adventures" and complex relationships seemed just too real. Highly recommended- if you like Roth's other books. (I like them all.)
That is the question, to which Mr. Roth gives no answer. I have. not enjoyed the writing of earlier books; but this one is fascinating, captivating and deeply enticing. So many answers to unfathomable questions makes this literature of the highest order. I will now read more. HAR
D. Crowell
I really enjoyed this Zuckerman book. Very funny but also thought provoking. Just the right amount of humor. Roth explores metafiction in this novel which increases the enjoyment on multiple levels. Roth plays with structure creatively as well as the traditional novel form. He also plays with the nature of "character." Writers will particularly appreciate this book because Roth exposes the craft behind the art of writing and explores the boundaries between the two. I particularly found the section on Israel fascinating as well as Roth's ruminations on being a Jew in England. Readers over fifty will absolutely relate to Roth's perceptions. Those much younger will just enjoy the humor of his entertaining novel. If you like a book with linear narrative structure, this book is not for you. At times, I felt lost and confused, but this was intended as Roth delves into metafiction. He also takes "point of view" to a whole new level as he experiments with changing the narration to different points of view of the same enacted scene. Such juxtaposition adds a lot of depth and perspective to the characters and the story. Some readers may not like this, but as a writer I appreciate the difficulty and brilliance of it.
J. GrattanD. Crowell
In this amazing, provocative novel - with five interconnected chapters of varying fictive purpose - there is scarcely any aspect of Jewish life, whether at the level of individual, family, or broader society, which goes unexamined by renowned writer, Nathan Zuckerman (Roth's alter ego). Having exposed the ridiculousness of his childhood family in his acclaimed, hurtful book, CARNOVSKY, thus, acquiring a reputation as a biting social critic, Nathan, in frank, often acerbic, letters, reminiscences, and long conversations, challenges comforting illusions in many areas and concerns of life, such as marriage, fidelity, potency, religion, Jewish authenticity, discrimination, etc, including the underlying attitudes and beliefs. Ultimately, it is how one is situated in those facets of life, as perceived by self and others, that supplies the basis of one's identity. However, for the characters in this book, identity is not a given; in fact, they suggest the difficulty of establishing an unquestioned, coherent, resilient identity. Little is sacred to Nathan in his quest to expose life's fictions. In fact, in the first three chapters of the book Nathan examines the supposed obsessions and excesses in Henry's, his younger brother, life. First, Henry is seen agonizing over an operation with life-threatening possibilities to restore potency, though hardly to improve his marriage. Next, Henry abruptly joins an obscure settlement in Israel established by a radical Jewish element, having suddenly decided that his former life was superficial - inauthentic. However, in chapter four, Gloucestershire, it turns out that Nathan is actually the brother who has had bypass surgery. Henry goes through Nathan's papers to discover that his older brother has every intention of misrepresenting him, disparagingly so, as a person with ridiculous identity issues in Nathan's next book. Interestingly enough, those notes appear as the first chapters of this book - fiction within fiction! Chapter five, Christendom, finds Nathan, having married pleasant, sharp, younger, upper-class Maria, is convinced that his very being is under assault as it turns out that Maria's mother and older sister either harbor or express anti-Semitism. His defensive, non-religious urbanity is thinner than he realized. Maria is not particularly sensitive to Nathan's concerns, finding his reactions to be a failure to accept reality at the risk of jeopardizing their marriage. The doubts and dilemmas of the fictional Henry suddenly do not seem so ridiculous; perhaps one's choices have constraints that come to the surface only at certain stressful times in life. A curious aspect of the book is the constant criticism that Nathan (Roth) gets from those whose motives or passions he questions. He, as an isolated writer, is accused of failing to grasp unpleasant, harsh, and changing reality, pref...

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