John Self, over on his Asylum blog, has written an excellent review of Roth's Exit Ghost. John's review could easily grace the pages of any broadsheet, but it misses what makes Roth's book so exciting and different to the mass of adequate Establishment Literary Fiction that crowds the shelves.
James Wood gets nearer to what makes Roth special in his New Yorker article Parade’s End: The many lives of Nathan Zuckerman:
Roth has been the great stealth postmodernist of American letters, able to have his cake and eat it without any evidence of crumbs. This is because he does not regard himself as a postmodernist. He is intensely interested in fabrication, in the performance of the self, in the reality that we make up in order to live; but his fiction examines this “without sacrificing the factuality of time and place to surreal fakery or magic-realist gimmickry,” as Zuckerman approvingly says of Lonoff’s work. Roth does not want to use his games to remind us, tediously and self-consciously, that Nathan and Amy and Lonoff are just “invented characters.” Quite the opposite. Unstartled by their inventedness, he swims through depthless skepticism toward a series of questions that are gravely metaphysical, and more Jamesian than Pynchonian: How much of any self is pure invention? Isn’t such invention as real to us as reality? But then how much reality can we bear? Roth knows that this kind of inquiry, far from robbing his fiction of reality, provokes an intense desire in his readers to invest his invented characters with solid reality, just as Nathan once invested the opaque Amy Bellette with the reality of Anne Frank. In this kind of work, the reader and the writer do something similar—they are both creating real fictions.
Roth "does not regard himself as a postmodernist." And neither do I. The power of Exit Ghost comes from Jamesian questions, as Wood says, not postmodernist answers. The power comes from Roth's modernism.