to the completely accomplished? If, as many critics have pointed out, masking touches upon both aesthetic and epistemological issues, what are the literary functions, the formal and narratological underpinnings, and the psychological needs that Zuckerman activates and reveals? What kind of portrait of the Jewish writer emerges?
To address these issues, I bring to the surface the inner logic of the fictional world presided over by Nathan Zuckerman. The task of understanding the overall fictional design of the Zuckerman books, in which each novel both stands alone and creates a dialogic pattern with the others, revolves around a formal analysis of this double structure—the individual and the general. How the Zuckerman books work from a narratological perspective and how form, in its panoply of aspects, creates the Zuckerman storyworld and activates reader responses are the issues at the center of what follows. I take this to be the meaning of Roth’s sentence “what I want is for the work to communicate itself as fully as it can, in accordance with its own intentions. Precisely so that it can be read, but on its own terms” (Plimpton 36).
At least partially10 in keeping with Brauner’s invitation to future scholars, the pages that follow will try to explore “the particular, paradoxical rhetorical gifts that set [Roth] apart from his contemporaries” (224) in the circumscribed and yet privileged context of the Zuckerman books. In so doing, this book follows in the steps of Brauner’s own effort to redress what he considers the generalized lack of attention to “Roth as a stylist” (Brauner 7) by recognizing and examining “the ambiguities, ambivalences and paradoxes that make Roth’s fiction demand and amply repay repeated readings” (7).
Well aware of the difficulties present in handling so many interrelated books, I concentrate on those tiny details which are concerned with writing itself—paratextual choices, narrative non sequiturs, internal contradictions and inconsistencies, opaque references, informational gaps, stylistic patterns, ambiguous nods to the reader, and the like—all narratological details calling attention to themselves and striking the reader as textual loci bearing a special, if subterranean, significance. The plausibility of this approach depends on its being both satisfactory