Quite different from the basically realist mode Roth has written in before, this book at key points simply comes to a dead stop, contradicts itself, goes off in different directions, doubles back, shifts voices and tenses, comments on itself, and comments on the comments. Different, too, is the way Roth deals, for the first time, with specifically religious Jewish issues that are woven into the work and become part of its intrinsic form. The Counter-life is meta-fiction with a vengeance. . . .

What are we to make of all this? And what, especially, are the specifically Jewish elements of the book—Israel, Zionist nationalism, gun- toting jingoistic Israeli rabbis, a lengthy argument for circumcision—all about?. . .

Much of the early furor about Roth and his supposed Jewish self-hatred appears to have diminished; the current generation of young Jews takes self-mockery with a greater...

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