Paul Ableman

Hamlet Abandoned

The Anatomy Lesson

By Philip Roth

Jonathan Cape 291pp £8.95 order from our bookshop

The Anatomy Lesson is about an American-Jewish author who once wrote a sexy best-seller of a transparently autobiographical kind and thereby became rich and famous. This is exactly what happened to Philip Roth. It is hard to resist the conclusion that The Anatomy Lesson is a thinly-disguised account of the long-term effects on Philip Roth of writing such a book. Indeed, resisting it would not only be taxing, considering the abundance of parallels, but unkind, since The Anatomy Lesson, without a factual complement, would have to be classified as a chaotic mess. Considered, however, as Philip Roth’s lightly-fictionalised account of the perils of writing light fiction it is fascinating and, much more important in view of the solemn note of much of his recent work, it is also, at least in parts, very funny.

Sara Stewart


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