Explores the comic devices Roth uses to satirize his times, the Jewish community, and himself.
The first comprehensive assessment of Philip Roth’s later novels, Mocking the Age offers rich and insightful readings that explore how these extraordinary works satirize our contemporary culture. From The Ghost Writer to The Plot Against America, Roth uses humor to address deadly serious matters, including social and political issues, psychological problems, postmodern concerns, and the absurd. In her clear and extensive analyses of these works, Elaine B. Safer looks at how Roth’s approach to the comic incorporates the self-deprecating humor of Jewish comedians, as well as the humor of nineteenth-century Eastern European Jewish storytellers and such twentieth-century writers as Bernard Malamud and Saul Bellow. Filling the void on critical examinations of Roth’s later work, Safer’s book provides a thorough appraisal of Roth’s lifetime accomplishment and an essential evaluation of his comic genius.
“The strength of this informed [book] is that it returns the Roth reader to laughter, since drawing morals from Roth’s comedy is perilous. Safer … suggests that Roth’s comedy identifies that which can be neither spoken nor argued.” — Modernism/modernity
“An established Roth scholar, Safer … here makes a worthy addition to critical literature on Roth.” — CHOICE
“Writers do not always get the critics they deserve—a scholar, who is also a warm-blooded person, with the life experience and fine tuned reading ability to discern their subtleties—but Philip Roth is well served by Elaine B. Safer, an expert on both the postmodern novel and the comic novel … [Her] comprehensive approach to Roth’s fiction is overdue and welcome.” — Shofar
“…offer[s] a significant perspective that furthers … understanding of Philip Roth.” — Jewish Journal
“Safer’s treatment is a reflection of her deep and meticulously researched involvement with Roth and her obvious desire to do justice to him. This book will stand for years to come as the definitive work on the later novels of Philip Roth.” Daniel Walden, editor of Twentieth-Century American-Jewish Fiction Writers
“Safer explores the relation of humor to theme, form, and narration in ways that are consistently intelligent, illuminating, and interesting. She draws easily and gracefully on contemporary and nineteenth-century American fiction, on the wide critical response to Roth’s work, and on other historical and philosophical texts that explain Roth’s texts and methods.” Judith Yaross Lee, author of Defining New Yorker Humor
Elaine B. Safer is Professor of English at the University of Delaware and the author of The Contemporary American Comic Epic: The Novels of Barth, Pynchon, Gaddis, and Kesey.