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Philip Roth's Rude Truth:
The Art of Immaturity
Ross Posnock

Paperback | 2008 | $28.95 | £23.95 | ISBN: 9780691138435
328 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400827343 |
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Has anyone ever worked harder and longer at being immature than Philip Roth? The novelist himself pointed out the paradox, saying that after establishing a reputation for maturity with two earnest novels, he "worked hard and long and diligently" to be frivolous--an effort that resulted in the notoriously immature Portnoy's Complaint (1969). Three-and-a-half decades and more than twenty books later, Roth is still at his serious "pursuit of the unserious." But his art of immaturity has itself matured, developing surprising links with two traditions of immaturity--an American one that includes Emerson, Melville, and Henry James, and a late twentieth-century Eastern European one that developed in reaction to totalitarianism. In Philip Roth's Rude Truth--one of the first major studies of Roth's career as a whole--Ross Posnock examines Roth's "mature immaturity" in all its depth and richness.

Philip Roth's Rude Truth will force readers to reconsider the narrow categories into which Roth has often been slotted--laureate of Newark, New Jersey; junior partner in the firm Salinger, Bellow, Mailer, and Malamud; Jewish-American regionalist. In dramatic contrast to these caricatures, the Roth who emerges from Posnock's readable and intellectually vibrant study is a great cosmopolitan in the tradition of Henry James and Milan Kundera.


"The present title offers a sophisticated, original vision and is a fine addition to the excellent body of critical material available on this significant prolific novelist. . . . Highly recommended."--Choice

"Crisply written, well argued and persuasive. Reading it, one looks forward to reading Roth again, in Posnock's new light."--Chanan Tigay, Forward

"Ross Posnock's study may be the most intellectually complex as well as fiercely independent study of Roth's career to date. Filled with deft observations, [Posnock] offers authoritative readings of literature and society which have profound implications that exceed considerations of Roth, its ostensible solitary subject."--Ranen Omer-Sherman, Modernism/modernity

"A very learned and stimulating critique of Philip Roth's fiction.... Ross Posnock has written one of the three best books on Philip Roth--if not the best.... He treats Roth's work as it deserves to be regarded, especially since no one as yet has adequately traced its roots to the major traditions of American literature."--Jay L. Halio, Shofar

"In this complex and stimulating book, Ross Posnock . . . rethinks the career of American novelist Philip Roth. . . . Posnock places Roth within a cosmopolitan community of authors ranging from Melville to Salinger who have rejected the separation of mind and body in favor of an aesthetic that rejects the very idea of knowing oneself. . . . Posnock has written an excellent book of criticism, exploring not just Roth, but also literature that emerged mid-century with roots in a long tradition of American and European art."--Peter Terry, ForeWord


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Table of Contents:

Preface xi
Acknowledgments xix
List of Abbreviations xxi
Chapter 1: Introduction: Roth Antagonistes 1
Chapter 2: Immaturity: A Genealogy 39
Chapter 3: Ancestors and Relatives: The Game of Appropriation and the Sacrifice of Assimilation 88
Chapter 4: "A very slippery subject": The Counterlife as Pivot 125
Chapter 5: Letting Go, or How to Lead a Stupid Life: Sabbath's Nakedness 155
Chapter 6: Being Game in The Human Stain 193
Chapter 7: The Two Philips 236
Coda: "The stars are indispensable" 260
Notes 267
Works Cited 287
Index 295

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