From Fidel Castro to Germaine Greer, Philip Roth to Alice Sebold,
Philip Roth, Exit Ghost, Jonathan Cape £16.99, 6 October
The haunting title, a stage direction from Hamlet, seems to say it all. Philip Roth's first Nathan Zuckerman novel, The Ghost Writer, was published in 1979; now, almost three decades later and after a series that has encompassed such breathtaking works as American Pastoral and The Human Stain, Roth's alter ego makes what sounds very much like his final appearance. This time, Zuckerman returns to New York after 10 years' seclusion on an isolated mountainside and, almost immediately, finds himself sucked into the worldliness from which he has been in flight. Revolving around encounters with a beautiful but fading woman, once the muse of Roth's mentor, the now dead EI Lonoff, a young couple keen to escape post-9/11 Manhattan and a rapacious literary biographer, Exit Ghost conjures a man raging against the dying of the light, in a characteristically Rothian meditation on the nature of artistic endeavour, creative rivalry, inspiration and, naturally, the imminence of the end.