The Ghost Writer - book cover
  • Publisher : Vintage; 1st Vintage International ed edition
  • Published : 01 Aug 1995
  • Pages : 179
  • ISBN-10 : 0679748989
  • ISBN-13 : 9780679748984
  • Language : English

The Ghost Writer

The Ghost Writer introduces Nathan Zuckerman in the 1950s, a budding writer infatuated with the Great Books, discovering the contradictory claims of literature and experience while an overnight guest in the secluded New England farmhouse of his idol, E. I. Lonoff.

At Lonoff's, Zuckerman meets Amy Bellette, a haunting young woman of indeterminate foreign background who turns out to be a former student of Lonoff's and who may also have been his mistress. Zuckerman, with his active, youthful imagination, wonders if she could be the paradigmatic victim of Nazi persecution. If she were, it might change his life.

The first volume of the trilogy and epilogue Zuckerman Bound, The Ghost Writer is about the tensions between literature and life, artistic truthfulness and conventional decency-and about those implacable practitioners who live with the consequences of sacrificing one for the other.

Editorial Reviews

"Roth's most controlled and elegant work...serious, intelligent, dramatic, acutely vivid, slyly and wickedly funny...seductive far beyond its brief efficiency." -Village Voice

"I had only to read the two opening sentences to realize that I was once again in the hands of a superbly endowed storyteller." -Robert Towers, The New York Review of Books

"Further evidence that Roth can do practically anything with fiction. His narrative power-the ability to delight the reader simultaneously with the telling and the tale-is superb." -Washington Post

Readers Top Reviews

OwlJohn MontgomeryMa
Sort of like a stream of thought, with a soft structure, and an incredible vocabulary. Not Roth's best work - but quick enough read that if you don't like it, it'll be over shortly.
C. Ebeling
Philip Roth has published steadily since the 1950's and attracts new readers all the time, who enter his world in media res. For those not as familiar as others, allow me to provide context: Nathan Zuckerman is a character who first showed up in Roth's fiction in the 1970's, and ever since has been considered the author's alter ego. In 1979, Roth published THE GHOST WRITER, which takes Zuckerman back to his days as a young up and coming writer of literary fiction in the 1950's. This is a terrific stand alone read, and it is also an excellent introduction to Zuckerman. Roth knows how to tell a story. He knows where the bones of structure go, he knows how to order his information, deploy a flowing rhythm, adjust perspective and fashion a remarkable voice. He knows how to be funny ha-ha and how to be funny, hmmm. He is a writer of great economy who fits a lot of vision into a cleanly told story. In this book, the young worshipful Zuckerman arrives at the Berkshire retreat of his idol, the famous writer E.I. Lonoff, for an evening of literary conversation over dinner and drinks. Across the span of the evening, Zuckerman learns what a career of nothing but writing can do to a man and, more importantly, to his marriage. He recalls his own family issues that have sprung up now that he has begun to write stories that portray middle class Jewish Americans in the glare of reality. When it becomes late and Lonoff insists he stay the night, Zuckerman learns a lot more about Lonoff than was expected, and contemplates the mysterious graduate assistant who also stays, who inspires in the third movement of the book, an alternative history about Anne Frank. Several different variations of meaning are wrung out of the term "ghost writer" in the course of less than 24 hours.
Marti A MeyersonMick
Roth's always brilliant prose is here in spades. But this is not a fully realized novel. Chunked in four short sections, the book offers a tenuously connected series of riffs dealing with a "what if" history scenario. The story features many of Roth's favorite themes: strained family relationships, masks worn to hide true feelings and identity, and the tangled, hero worship, and the intricate conflict inherent in the question of what it means to be a "good" Jew. It's an absorbing read. But for a more fully realized Roth offering where he reimagines history, I would suggest "The Plot Against America."
Patrizia Pelgrift
Best book I have read in a long time. I laughed out loud several times. Roth has an endearing style of describing things as they are without being corny.
This small novella has many interesting features that will be delightful for those who enjoy Philip Roth's incredibly clear, elegant writing. The Ghost Writer does not have the power of his great novels, as language is relatively plain and without any stylistic digression, but as part of the evolution of Roth's creative thinking, it is clearly a first step towards the masterpiece American Pastoral. Roth here also sort of cathartically exorcizes some of his anxieties of influence (to use Harold Bloom's lingo), as he strives to surpass his predecessors, Liev Tolstoy, Franz Kafka, Saul Bellow and... Anne Frank, and this is just fantastic imho...

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