Lee (Rocky)'s Reviews > The Counterlife

The Counterlife by Philip Roth
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's review
Jul 08, 2012

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bookshelves: read-in-2012
Read from July 08 to 11, 2012

I think I appreciate this book in an abstract sense more than I actually enjoyed it while reading it. Roth constructs an interesting novel that really does a great job of exploring the complex relationships between an author and his characters, between an author and the people in his life, between the people in an author's life and the characters that they perceive to be based on themselves, and between a person and their own sense of who they are. The story is unusual is that some of the facts presented contradict earlier chapters and throughout the novel there is a sense of being unable to tell what the real story is. This confusion is somewhat resolved late in the book, but not completely conclusively. Through the character of Nathan Zuckerman, Roth really does a great job of giving the reader a sense of some of the complexities of the life of an author and how his work can impact his real life (and how the line between real life and his writing can get pretty blurry at times). Late in the novel, I was suddenly struck by how many levels this story had, and how strangely well the two main conflicts of the story intertwined (those conflicts being: a) the decision to have risky surgery instead of having to take medication that would make erections impossible, and b) the experience of the American cultural Jew, balancing a rejection of religious belief with the feeling of being an outsider).
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