It came as a shock to fans and critics alike when Philip Roth, at the age of 80, announced he would henceforth cease and desist from the writing of fiction. After all, how could a writer who, for more than 50 years, had devoted his life to producing page after page of novels and stories that have never ceased to astonish — no one could break taboos and raise a ruckus like Roth; few could match his engagement with the Jewish experience in America or his dark wisdom in grappling with prejudice — wake up one morning and unplug the writing function from his computer as well as from his brain?
A satisfying historical novel displays a flair for narrative and credible characters grounded on a solid base of research. The more remote the period, the tougher the challenge. In “The Liars’ Gospel,” (Little Brown), Naomi Alderman, a British writer, takes on perhaps the most difficult challenge of all.
When I saw that the new issue of The New Republic had Robert Alter reviewing a new work by Nathan Englander, I instinctively thought it’d be of Englander’s new translation of the Passover Haggadah. Given that Alter is a widely admired translator of the Hebrew Bible, it was only natural for me to assume as much.
In ‘An American Type,’ Henry Roth suggests that there is a heavy price to be paid for America’s freedom, and for Jewishness itself.
The wisest way to approach a posthumous novel is with low expectations. Given that, you wouldn’t be wrong to afford some grace to Henry Roth’s new posthumous novel, “An American Type” (Norton), cobbled together from 1,900 disordered manuscript pages that were left untouched for nearly a decade after he died. And yet the book hardly needs it.