Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Zuckerman Unbound (1981)

In the second book in the Zuckerman Bound trilogy, Zuckerman Unbound (1981), it is 1969 and Philip Roth's fictional author, Nathan Zuckerman, has found just the kind of success with his new novel, Carnovsky, that hounded Roth himself after the publication of Portnoy's Complaint (1969).

Carnovsky is a coming-of-age story in which the titular hero grows up in New Jersey, comes of age, and has a family, experiences, and relationships that are quite similar to those of Nathan Zuckerman (so also quite similar to those of Roth). Naturally everyone assumes that his stories of Carnovsky and his neuroses, sexual desires, and horrible parents are all reflected in Zuckerman's real life. Zuckerman, on the other hand, would be the first person to deny all that -- and dealing with the accusations from his friends, family, and perfect strangers, not to mention his sudden wealth and fame, have left Zuckerman generally unbound.

Throw in a little Alvin Pepler (a New Jersey veteran with a photographic memory who made it big on a 1950s game show, lost it all, gave evidence against the show's producers, and then quietly went just a little bit crazy -- and who is now one of my favorite literary characters of all time), a little starlet dating, an earnest soon-to-be ex-wife, a sick father, and a mother who just wants Zuckerman to be happy and you have a pretty complicated, funny, occasionally frustrating, and ultimately rewarding novel.

Now on to round three!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bloom's list is weird as hell, but i suppose any such list would be weird as hell, though we all secretly want such a list, which makes it not weird (though, he put Kenneth Burke on the list, which is -- by far -- the coolest thing about the list, even though Burke is actually the weirdest thing on the list and the weirdest thing to be included in the list, so there you go).