cover image Deception


Philip Roth. Simon & Schuster, $18.45 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-70374-5

Written entirely in unascribed dialogue (which provides the challenge of identifying the speakers), this newest novel by the NBCC Award-winning author is a clever comedy of manners that segues--as is the author's wont--into a disquisition on the distinction between literature and life. Most of the conversations are articulate, erotic pillow talk between adulterous lovers: an American writer living in London and his English mistress. She complains about the complications of her domestic life. He mainly listens: ``I'm an ecouteur--an audiophiliac. I'm a talk fetishist.'' The identification with Roth himself is clear; the male speaker refers to ``Zuckerman, my character.'' He also records conversations with other women, his former lovers. Two of them are emigrees from Eastern Europe; like the male speaker/Roth, they are outsiders in English society, where he is very conscious of British anti-Semitism. But the book is more complex than the conversational format suggests. Roth is up to his old tricks; the title has a dual meaning. In a conversation between the male character/Roth and his ``wife,'' he insists that these dialogues are purely imaginary, notes for a novel in progress. Yes, but then another conversation suggests otherwise. Who is being deceived here? It's impossible to say. First serial to Esquire. (Apr.)