Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short StoriesGoodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories by Philip Roth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I made it a bit of a project this summer to read a bunch of Philip Roth books. I started with his latest (and final?) novels Nemesis and Indignation and finished by re-reading his first book Goodbye, Columbus. In the back of my mind I was expecting the recent work to display a seasoned mastery and the early work to pale in comparison. What happened was the absolute contrary. The stories in Goodbye Columbus are loose, ingenious, lively, crafty, profound, surprising and generally thrilling in a way the later books aren't. The late Roth is tempered, measured, nostalgic, reserved, pessimistic and plodding in comparison. The titular novella was not my favourite in Goodbye, Columbus. The much anthologized story "Defender of the Faith" and in particular, "The Conversion of the Jews," are as fine as any stories I've ever read, amazingly self-assured for a debut. I've read about a dozen of Roth's novels spanning his career and can not think of any of his fiction I've enjoyed more, even the second time around.

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