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Buy for $19.99
The Facts is the unconventional autobiography of a writer who has reshaped our idea of fiction - a work of compelling candor and inventiveness, instructive particularly in its revelation of the interplay between life and art.
Philip Roth concentrates on five episodes from his life: his secure city childhood in the '30s and '40s; his education in American life at a conventional college in the '50s; his passionate entanglement, as an ambitious young man, with the angriest person he ever met (the “girl of my dreams” Roth calls her); his clash, as a fledgling writer, with a Jewish establishment outraged by Goodbye, Columbus; and his discovery, in the excesses of the '60s, of an unmined side to his talent that led him to write Portnoy’s Complaint.
The audiobook concludes surprisingly - in true Rothian fashion - with a sustained assault by the novelist against his proficiencies as an autobiographer.
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"Why is it that when they talk about the facts they feel they're on more soid ground than when they talk about the fiction?" The truth is that the facts are much more refractory and unmanageable and inconclusive, and can actually kill the very sort of inquiry that imagination opens up."
- Philip Roth, The Facts
Part memoir, part exegeis on the same memoir by Roth's ficitonal alter-ego Zuckerman (with some pointers from Zuckerman's wife if it hasn't already becoeme uber-Meta). I walked into this only partially knowing what I was getting into. I figured it would be more than just an author's memoir, but I was unprepared to like it as much as I did. I didn't lke it as much as The Counterlife (his previous work). Like the Counterlife, Roth is absolutely screwing with the traditonal form. He is bending memoir into a post-modern exploration of not just fiction, but memoir, facts, and his own history.
It would have been a good memoir without the Zuckerman invention, but somehow by having a fictional character critique a memoir, Roth is able to explore corners that straight memoir or fiction wouldn't allow. I still don' think it is top-shelf Roth, but it is still damn good.
4 people found this helpful
Yawn . . .!!!
Maybe I'll try one of his other books as this one is a bit of a sleeper. . .!
- Bob H
The reading is particularly excellent
I'm about half way through, really enjoying this book, and came back to Audible to see if Roth reads this himself. He does not, but the voice sounds like an autobiographical voice. Roth may be unfair, but he is continuously interesting. Such a talent!
Compelling listening most of the way...
Great narrative with insights regarding Roth, fiction and autobiography, New York Jews and gentiles and Roth's characterisation of them. I liked the references to characters in novels and links to Roth's personal story. Surprisingly little on some periods and if and how they affected Roth - McCarthyism, Vietnam War and the anti-war movement and more. Interesting even if only some of Roth's voluminous output has been read. However... the beginning for some reason was more engaging than the latter half. Nevertheless well worth a read 'n listen.