Students of Philip Roth’s writings will value this full-length study by Connolly (Hostos Community College, CUNY) along with A Political Companion to Philip Roth, ed. by Claudia Franziska Brühwiler and Lee Trepanier (CH, Jan'18, 55-1662), in which Connolly has an essay on Roth’s novel The Human Stain. (That essay focuses on the American "underclass"; in the present volume, the chapter devoted to The Human Stain focuses on race and ethnicity). Here Connolly concentrates on five Roth novels, departing from while acknowledging the formalist preoccupations by New Criticism interpreters. Indeed, the oscillations of Roth’s character Zuckerman across the novels reveals Roth’s tensions—tensions over aesthetic responsibility to the imagination and social engagement—anticipating and accompanying the cultural wars of post-1960s social movements and the anxieties tempering Roth’s Jewish consciousness. The egalitarianism Roth’s father hoped would result from the New Deal heavily influenced his author son, and Connolly examines the impact on Roth and his critics of Lionel Trilling, Arthur Schlesinger, LBJ’s Great Society programs, and the reactions of neoconservatives to the world Zuckerman inhabits. This sound critique is prodigiously referenced. . . .
Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty.