It’s been awhile since I last blogged, and this is primarily due to laziness. But in the interim, I have been reading quite a bit, and over the next several days I hope to catch up a bit with things.
One of books in the past month is curious novella by the novelist and screenwriter, Martin Smith. Goodbye, Philip Roth is an interesting look at one writer’s relationship with Roth and the sheer presence–and even oppressiveness–generated by the preeminent American novelist. The novella is written in the first person, almost like a confessional, and it reminds you of the kind of intimate disclosure narrative that you’ll find in Portnoy’s Complaint. And like Alexander Portnoy, the protagonist in Goodbye, Philip Roth–named “Martin Smith,” again following in Roth’s wake of the author being the overt subject–has some issues. Except where Portnoy’s problems revolved around women, Martin’s is literary paranoia. He feels that Philip Roth, the novelist, is usurping his ideas…in fact, usurping his life. And this has gotten in the way of Martin’s creativity and his sense of self. This idea is intriguing, but it’s really nothing new. Echoes of Zuckerman Unbound abound. What’s more, Alan Lelchuk did this theme much more thoroughly, a so much better, in Ziff: A Life? back in 2004. And even if this were more of an original idea, the way that Smith handles it becomes tiresome after awhile. His protagonist is definitely paranoid, which is understandable. But as the novella progresses–and it’s a novella, so there isn’t really much room to progress–the paranoid schtick become almost overbearing. By the time I was in the last chapter of the book I thought, “Okay, okay! I’ve got it already!” A light touch, Martin Smith has not.
Finally, I’m not entirely sure about the publisher. I’ve never heard of Pleasure Boat Studio, but that really doesn’t mean anything. But I wonder about the quality of the other books they put out. One of the things I noticed in Goodbye, Philip Roth is the number of typos and other careless errors sprinkled throughout. What kind of editorial office does Pleasure Boat Studies have? Overall, this certainly wasn’t the greatest book in the world. But given its subject matter–jeez, the very title!–I felt I had to read it.