'This is a vicious, furious book, unapologetically not of this age - it is also horribly funny and unflinchingly honest' New Statesman
In 1997 Philip Roth won the Pulitzer Prize for American Pastoral. In 1998 he received the National Medal of Arts at the White House, and in 2002 the highest award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Gold Medal in Fiction, previously awarded to John Dos Passos, William Faulkner and Saul Bellow, among others. He has twice won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has won the PEN/Faulkner Award three times. In 2005 The Plot Against America received the Society of American Historians' Prize for 'the outstanding historical novel on an American theme for 2003-2004'. Recently Roth received PEN's two most prestigious prizes: in 2006 the PEN/Nabokov Award 'for a body of work ... of enduring originality and consummate craftsmanship' and in 2007 the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, given to a writer whose 'scale of achievement over a sustained career ... places him or her in the highest rank of American literature'. In 2011 Roth won the International Man Booker Prize. Roth is the only living American writer to have his work published in a comprehensive, definitive edition by the Library of America.
Eros and mortality are the central themes of Roth's frank, unsparing and curious new novella. It's curious not only because of its short form (new for Roth), but because he seems to have assumed the mantle of Saul Bellow, writing pages of essay-like exposition on contemporary social phenomena and advancing the narrative through introspection rather than dialogue. The protagonist is again David Kepesh (of The Breast and The Professor of Desire), who left his wife and son during the sexual revolution vowing to indulge his erotic needs without encumbrance. Kepesh is now an eminent 70-year-old cultural critic and lecturer at a New York college, recalling a devastating, all-consuming affair he had eight years before with voluptuous 24-year-old Consuela Castillo, a graduate student and daughter of a prosperous Cuban ‚migr‚ family. From the beginning, Kepesh is oppressed by the "unavoidable poignancy" of their age difference, and he suffers with the jealous knowledge that this liaison will likely be his last; even when locked in the throes of sexual congress, a death's head looms in his imagination. The end of the affair casts him into a long depression. When Consuela contacts him again eight years later, on the New Year's Eve of the millennium, their reunion is doubly ironic in the Roth tradition. Consuela has devastating news about her body, and it's obvious that retribution is at hand for the old libertine. Roth's candor about an elderly man's consciousness that he's "a dying animal" (from the Yeats poem) is unsentimental, and his descriptions of the lovers' erotic acts push the envelope in at least one scene involving menstruation. The novella is as brilliantly written, line by line, as any book in Roth's oeuvre, and it's bound to be talked about with gusto. (May 18) Forecast: Roth's audience is faithful, and the erotic explicitness of this book may attract other readers who have not tackled the author's longer novels. But his longtime refusal to do talk shows or give interviews will as usual limit publicity efforts, and it remains to be seen whether such a narrowly focused story will sell with the rapidity of Roth's longer novels. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
David Kepesh, protagonist of Roth's The Breast and The Professor of Desire, re-appears in this tale about an obsessive love affair. A respected English professor, NPR commentator, and TV cultural critic, Kepesh leads a life that is delicately balanced between antithetical objects carefully ordered intellectual pursuits on the one hand and uninhibited sexual gratification on the other. This balance, made possible only by his lack of emotional commitment, is undone by his affair with Consuela Castillo, a 24-year-old ex-student and daughter of Cuban exiles. Set in 1999, when Kepesh is 70, the book recounts the affair, which transpired eight years earlier, chronicling the breakdown of his emotional detachment and subsequent plunge into jealousy and neurotic infatuation an infatuation unrelieved even by Consuela's shocking reappearance at the turn of the millennium. Roth has concocted a scathingly frank rumination on eroticism and aging, sex and death. For most libraries. Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, MA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Brief and brilliant -- Frank Kermode * London Review of Books *
A small disturbing masterpiece * New York Review of Books *
A fierce, compacted, sometimes brutal meditation on the passing of time and the meaning of freedom * Daily Telegraph *
Written with Roth's familiar elegance and composure * Sunday Times *
Intense and brilliant... Dazzling and compelling * Sunday Herald *