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Letting Go
Philip Roth
publisher: Querido, Amsterdam, 1962

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Letting Go is Philip Roth's first full-length novel, published just after Goodbye, Columbus, when he was twenty-nine. Set in 1950s Chicago, New York, and Iowa City, Letting Go presents as brilliant a fictional portrait as we have of a mid-twentieth-century America defined by social and ethical constraints and by moral compulsions conspicuously different from those of today.

Newly discharged from the Korean War army, reeling from his mother's recent death, freed from old attachments and hungrily seeking others, Gabe Wallach is drawn to Paul Herz, a fellow graduate
student in literature, and to Libby, Paul's moody, intense wife. Gabe's desire to be connected to the ordered 'world of feeling' that the finds in books is first tested vicariously by the anarchy of the Herzes' struggles with responsible adulthood and then by his own eager love affairs. Driven by the desire to live seriously and act generously, Gabe meets an impassable test in the person of Martha Reganhart, a spirited, outspoken, divorced mother of two.

The complex liaison between Gabe and Martha and Gabe's moral enthusiasm for the trials of others are at the heart of this tragically comic work.



The Professor of Desire
David Kapesh, an adventurous man of intelligence and feeling, tries to make his way to both pleasure and dignity through a world of sensual possiblities. This novel, by the author of Portnoy's Complaint, explores the pursuit and loss of erotic happiness.
Goodbye, Columbus
A Radcliffe undergraduate and a Newark public library employee engage in a summer romance.
The Human Stain
Coleman Silk has a secret. But it's not the secret of his affair, at seventy-one, with a woman half his age. And it's not the secret of his alleged racism, which provoked the college witchhunt that cost him his job. Coleman's secret is deeper, and lies at the very core of who he is, and he has kept it hidden from everyone for fifty years.
Operation Shylock
A novel in which Philip Roth confronts his double, an imposter whose self-appointed task is to lead the Jews not into, but out of Israel, and back to Europe.

The Adventures of Augie March
Saul Bellow, 1953
Philip Roth has said, of Bellow and Malamud: 'They pointed to a world that I could recognize, and said: this is the material of fiction. (...) It takes a kind of intellectual revelation to discover that you can write about the place you come from.'

Dubin's Lives
Bernard Malamud, 1979
Malamud's protagonist is prize-winning biographer William Dubin, who learns from lives, or thinks he does: those he writes, those he shares, the life he lives. Now in his later middle age, he seeks his own secret self, and the obsession of biography is supplanted by the obsession of love - for a woman half his age.

The Metamorphosis, In the Penal Colony, and Other Stories
Franz Kafka, 1915-1924
Teaching at the University of Pennsylvania during the gestation of Portnoy's Complaint, Roth assigned 'a lot of Kafka…. The course might have been called "Studies in Guilt and Persecution."'

Portnoy's Complaint
The famous confession of Alexander Portnoy who is thrust through life by his unappeasable sexuality, yet held back at the same time by the iron grip of his unforgettable childhood.
The terrain of this savagely sad short novel is the human body, and its subject is the common experience that terrifies us all.

The Counterlife
The Counterlife follows protagonist Nathan Zuckerman from New York to Israel to London. Along the way, monologues, eulogies, letters, interviews, and conversations ponder Judaism and Zionism, the nature of personality, the competing claims of imagination and life, and sex.
Roth watches as his eighty-six-year-old father - famous for his vigor, charm, and his repertoire of Newark recollections - battles with the brain tumor that will kill him.
Sabbath's Theater
After the death of his long-time mistress - an erotic free spirit whose adulterous daring exceeds even his own - 64-year-old puppeteer Mickey Sabbath embarks on a turbulent journey into his past.
The Dying Animal
David Kepesh is white-haired and over sixty, an eminent TV culture critic and star lecturer at a New York College, when he meets Consuela Castillo, a decorous, well-mannered student of twenty-four, the daughter of wealthy Cuban exiles, who promptly puts his life into erotic disorder and haunts him for the next eight years.
American Pastoral
Seymour 'Swede' Levov - a legendary high school athlete, a devoted family man, a hard worker, the prosperous inheriter of his father's Newark glove factory - comes of age in thriving, triumphant post-war America. But everything he loves is lost when the country begins to run amok in the turbulent 1960s.
I Married a Communist
The rise and fall of Ira Ringold, a big American roughneck who begins life as a teenage ditch-digger in 1930s Newark, becomes a big-time 1940s radio star, and is destroyed, as both a performer and a man, in the McCarthy witchhunt of the 1950s.
The Breast
Like a latter-day Gregor Samsa, Professor David Kepesh wakes up one morning to find that he has been transformed. But where Kafka's protagonist turned into a giant beetle, the narrator of Philip Roth's richly conceived fantasy has become a 155-pound female breast.
The Facts
By offering his memoirs plus a critique of same penned by his alter ego Nathan Zuckerman, Roth here undermines the autobiographical genre as he derailed fictional conventions in The Counterlife.
The Anatomy Lesson
At forty, the writer Nathan Zuckerman comes down with a mysterious affliction - pure pain, beginning in his neck and shoulders, invading his torso, and taking possession of his spirit. Zuckerman, whose work was his life, is unable to write a line.
The Ghost Writer
The Ghost Writer introduces Nathan Zuckerman in the 1950s; a budding writer infatuated with the Great Books, discovering the contradictory claims of literature and experience while an overnight guest in the secluded New England farmhouse of his literary idol, E. I. Lonoff.
Letting Go
Roth's first full-length novel, published just after Goodbye, Columbus, when he was twenty-nine. Set in 1950s Chicago, New York, and Iowa city, Letting Go presents a fictional portrait of a mid-twentieth-century America defined by social and ethical constraints and by moral compulsions conspicuously different from those of today.
When She Was Good
When she was still a child, Lucy Nelson had her alcoholic failure of a father thrown in jail. Ever since then she has been trying to reform the men around her, even if that ultimately means destroying herself in the process.
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