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The Counterlife | [Philip Roth]

The Counterlife

The Counterlife brings back Roth's most notorious character, the novelist Nathan Zuckerman. Nathan's married brother, Henry the dentist, is suffering from impotence as a result of taking heart medication - and he's willing to risk his life in a dangerous operation just to regain his sexual prowess in order to satisfy the needs of his office assistant.
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Publisher's Summary

Time calls Philip Roth "the uncontested master of comic irony". He is a best-seller and the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, the National Book Award, and the Pulitzer Prize in fiction.

The Counterlife brings back Roth's most notorious character, the novelist Nathan Zuckerman.

Nathan's married brother, Henry the dentist, is suffering from impotence as a result of taking heart medication - and he's willing to risk his life in a dangerous operation just to regain his sexual prowess in order to satisfy the needs of his office assistant.

Spend some more time with Philip Roth's Zuckerman.

©1986 Philip Roth; (P)2005 Recorded Books

What the Critics Say

"[S]o formidably good, and so perversely surprising, that it prompts the question: How did [Roth] get here? How did he wind up with this?" (The Atlantic)

With George Guidall as the reader, the transition from the written word to audio is flawless." (AudioFile)

"No other writer combines such a surface of colloquial relaxation and even dishevelment with such a dense load of mediating intelligence.... Roth has never written more scrupulously or, in spots, more lovingly." (John Updike, The New Yorker)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (57 )
5 star
 (17)
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2 star
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3.9 (25 )
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4.2 (25 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 05-25-14
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 05-25-14

    A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "Inventing a counterlife that is 1's own anti-myth"

    Structurally brilliant, with a prose that shoots aggressively off every page. Roth begins his narrative with erectile disfunction and ends it with a nod to the circumcised erection of the Jewish father. Roth is going to travel and transform. He is going to elect for historical plastic surgery just so he can pick at every wound and irritate every scar of the past. He will use and abuse every bias and position that surrounds him.

    This novel feels like Roth is trapped at one end by the extreme faction of Jewish nationalists s and at the other end by a loud American Diaspora and everything in-between (including the tweedy, green and quiet antiSemitism of England). 95 percent of us would probably break or bend when presented with a cage like the one Roth has. How as a Modern Jew do you breath when there is no cool place to put your feet? No safe home? No pastoral homeland? If you are Roth, you fight. You hit everyone. You examine every word, every inflection and you prostrate your life and history. You sacrifice the past, present and future to the narrative of your mare's nest. You realize that pain and conflict is a helluva story. You don't run from the extreme options, you get your passport and visas and visit the extremes and then you write a novel about them. This is life. Isn't life glorious?

    11 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    JOHN Plantation, FL, United States 04-11-10
    JOHN Plantation, FL, United States 04-11-10 Member Since 2003

    Audible Member Since 2003

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Intense, complex, interesting, painful"

    I got more than I bargained for with this book. The Counterlife deals with many of the popular Rothian themes - sexuality, impotence, Jewish identity, infidelity, aging and personal "relevance." All of these issues swarm in intense personal conflict, this time not only with the well known author Nathan Zuckerman (often referred to by many as Philip Roth's fictional alter-ego) but with his brother Henry, a successful New Jersey dentist.
    It is as if Roth, aware of his innumerable critics and interpreters, through Zuckerman intentionally throws a curve ball, blurring the line between fiction and reality on many levels. Thus the title "The Counterlife" is an appropriate one.
    This is a very interesting book, certainly not for everyone (but then again Roth never is) and a story that will at first befuddle the reader/listener before gradually revealing just enough to keep one from total frustration. Actually, in my opinion this is another masterwork from the Master himself.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Charles Princeton, NJ, USA 06-15-09
    Charles Princeton, NJ, USA 06-15-09
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    "One of the Best Zuckerman Novels"

    I loved this book and I always enjoy George Guidall's narration of Roth novels. This one compares the reactions of the two Zuckerman brothers when given the choice of life-risking surgery or loss of sexual potency.(Death and sex, being the one-two punch of many of Roth's books.) It also deals with the American Jew's conflicting desires to assimilate and also be at one with the ideal of Israel, and it seems to foreshadow Roth's own disasterous marriage to Claire Bloom. This novel is the perfect accompaniment to the last Zuckerman novel, Exit Ghost, in which Zuckerman turns his life upside down, not to battle impotence, but to cure his incontinence. Twenty years obviously changed Zuckerman's and Roth's priorities!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    W.Denis Savannah, GA, United States 06-26-08
    W.Denis Savannah, GA, United States 06-26-08
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    "Oye"

    This book is not about Zuckerman sexlessness it is twelve and a half hours of Jewishness and is very tedious except where the author gives his opinions on what Israel is all about. This part ia quite interesting.

    3 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A 12-31-10
    A 12-31-10 Member Since 2007
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    "mind-numbing book about a self-absorbed bore"

    This was the least enjoyable book I have ever read. I'm actually
    upset at having wasted the time. I kept listening because I thought,
    surely this must be going somewhere. Maybe the ending is so great that
    it will make up for the torture of reading this gut-wrenchingly tedious
    book. Anyway, its not about the sexy topic in the blurb, that's just a
    tiny bit. Its 98% about this extremely self-absorbed neurotic non-religious
    Jewish man questioning what Jewishness means to him. Ad nauseum. The man is
    so arrogant, self focused, and profoundly boring that I found it impossible
    to be at all interested. Perhaps back in the day of Saul Bellow this was a
    somewhat interesting topic, but its been done. And a lot better than here. Arghhhh.

    Actually, because PR is a respected author, I kept reading, because I kept suspecting
    he was employing some brilliant literary device that I wasn't quite
    catching onto yet. Making the book just as torturous and annoying as the character.
    To make some point... But in the end, it was just a really annoying book that circled
    around in the neurotic way of its character, self absorbed and somewhat pointless.
    I don't even remember the ending because it was just that non-memorable.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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