Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Letting Go by Philip Roth

This is Roth's first novel and his second published book (the first was Goodbye, Columbus, a collection of short stories). What Letting Go has is Roth's trademark intensity, his examination of Jewishness, and a surprisingly tame depiction of marriage and romance. Roth has become so daring in his treatment of sexuality (see Sabbath's Theater, for instance) it's interesting to see how demure he was back in the old days.

I almost wish this had been a terrible book. It's 600+ pages, and nobody makes a significant decision until about page 400. It was a strange kind of torture to get to that point, because on one hand there wasn't much driving the plot, but on the other hand the language and Roth's psychological insights were both compelling and enjoyable. If Roth had been even just an above-average writer I'd have tossed this on the heap before page 100. Instead, I don't regret having toughed it out.

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