Artists’ late phases normally involve obsessive repetition, and modest variations on the same theme and form – Monet’s water lilies, Bellow’s curmudgeons. But not in Philip Roth’s case: his strikingly varied output since 2000 has consisted of an unsettling May-to-December love story (The Dying Animal); a counterfactual historical novel (The Plot Against America); a parable-like account of one man’s life from childhood to death (Everyman); and now the completion of a cycle he began twenty-eight years ago.
His final Nathan Zuckerman novel concludes a saga that is both longer than the other great American postwar sequences, John Updike’s Rabbit Angstrom quartet and Richard Ford’s Frank Bascombe trilogy, and set apart from them in that it falls into two distinct groups.
The works that appeared between 1979 and 1986 – a trilogy plus a novella (The Prague Orgy) and The Counterlife – show Zuckerman in transition from youth to middle age, and from the aspiring author of The Ghost Writer to the famous one of Zuckerman Unbound. Much of the CV