Saturday, March 24, 2012

The agonies of a would-be writer

I was in Manila, attending the Community-Based Monitoring System (CBMS) Conference at SMX-MOA. On the way home one night, I dropped by Book Sale-Araneta and picked up Philip Roth's novella The Ghost Writer.

It is about a twenty-three year old Jewish writer by the name of Nathan Zuckerman, who had published four short stories, was favorably included in a list of notable young writers to watch in a national newspaper and is spending a weekend in a New England farmhouse of semi-recluse E.I Lonoff, his great literary idol. There at the farmhouse he met another literary groupie of Lonoff, a great beauty who is claiming she is the Anne Frank.

The young Zuckerman is being accused of betrayal by his family and local Jewish community because of a short story he intends to publish which incidentally showed a Jewish family squabbling about a family inheritance. His family and the Jewish elders think it would reinforce the negative stereotype of Jewish people as moneygrubbers. Upon meeting Anne Frank at Loboff's house, Zuckerman had this idea that if he could marry Anne Frank nobody would dare doubt his Jewish loyalty anymore.

It's a very funny quick read. I always enjoy reading about the lives of literary men, and this book reminds me of another fictionalized account of one other such man, Saul Bellow's Ravelstein (which I also heartily recommend).

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