The Ghost Writer – Philip Roth

Now this is proper writing. It’s not a very long book, I’m not sure if counts as a novel, or if it’s more like a novella.

All the action takes place in less than a day (except for some flashbacks), and there are only four characters (again, except the flashbacks) in a remote farm somewhere. But there’s fantasy, guilt, jealousy, idol-worship, sleep deprivation, masturbation, and document archival all crammed in, all layered on top of each other. And it doesn’t go anywhere, but it does present a cross-section of a time and place.

This being Philip Roth, and being set in the 50s, it’s marginally obsessed with the holocaust. I had thought it was written in the 1950s too, but the copyright page says 1970-something, so I guess it’s like a Jewish Happy Days or something. And, in case the title doesn’t give it away, it’s about a writer. I thought he was actually going to write something. Maybe the idea is that he wrote the story of the day after it was over and he’d gone back to wherever it was he was from.

See also:

Updike’s Rabbit books. Unlike this (which is the first in a four book series), actually written at the time they are set in, so somehow more risky and immediate and authentically documentary. Also much longer and filled with more details – for all the human character in The Ghost Writer, the outside world doesn’t intrude much.

The Plot Against America – obviously. Also obsessed with the holocaust (I guess it is an important subject) but unsatisfactory in the end


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