O lost

roth

I am listening to the audiobook of Zuckerman Unbound by Philip Roth. To me, early Roth is good; but The Professor of Desire is the first great novel, and only with The Ghost Writer, and its sequel, ZU, did Roth truly rocket upwards to the heights. My ears perked up at a moment in the text when a book is referenced in passing.

Carrying his books from one life into the next was nothing new to Zuckerman. He had left his family for Chicago in 1949 carrying in his suitcase the annotated works of Thomas Wolfe and Roget’s Thesaurus

The closest thing I can find online is one The Annotated Thomas Wolfe Bibliography, by John Bassett. Now I’m asking: is there actually an annotated works of Wolfe, or is it a fantasy book that only Zuckerman gets to read? Is Mr. Roth out there to answer? We know he reads the internet (everybody knows that Wikipedia is run by assholes, Mr. Roth. Welcome to 2013). If he’s anything like my grandfather was in retirement, he’s probably spending all of his time playing jacks on his computer.

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Look Homeward Angel had a huge impact on my love of letters at a tender age. I have Of Time and the River on my shelf right here; and The Web and The Rock and You Can’t Go Home Again are stashed on my parents’ shelves. I haven’t been able to read them yet. Something about knowing that they are just fragments of “The October Fair,” Wolfe’s lost epic tale, makes the thought of cracking them open prematurely disappointing. But an annotated works would revive my flagging spirits just a tad, if it’s not just a figment of Roth’s fantasy.

And here’s another little reason why I find the loss of Wolfe’s original vision so sad. This list is just inside the front cover of Of Time in the River. It’s both a thrilling statement of Wolfe’s artistic ambition, and a really sad reminder of all that was lost when the original The October Fair was tossed à la baby-with-the-bathwater in favor of three autobiographical novels.

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