Book for November 2011
Kepesh is fascinated by the beautiful young Consuela Castillo, a student in one of his courses. An erotic liaison is formed between the two; Kepesh becomes obsessively enamored of his lover's breasts, a fetish developed in the previous novels. Despite his fevered devotion to Consuela, the sexually promiscuous professor maintains a concurrent affair with a previous lover, now divorced. He is also reluctant to expose himself to the scrutiny or ridicule that might follow from an introduction to Consuela's family. It is implied that he fears such a meeting would expose the implausible age gap in their relationship. Ultimately, Kepesh limits their relationship to the physical instead of embarking upon any deeper arrangement.
In the end, Kepesh is destroyed by his indecisiveness, the fear of senescence, his lust and jealousy. Consuela never subsequently finds a lover who can show the same level of devotion to her body as Kepesh had. After some years of estrangement, she asks him to take nude photographs of her because she will be losing one of her breasts to a life-saving mastectomy.
Most editions display a cover picture, Le grand nu (1919) by Amedeo Modigliani. In the novel, Consuela sends Kepesh a postcard depicting Le grand nu, and Kepesh surmises that the figure in the painting is her alter ego.
Roth's books were twice awarded the National Book Award, twice the National Book Critics Circle award, and three times the PEN/Faulkner Award. He received a Pulitzer Prize for his 1997 novel, American Pastoral, which featured his best-known character, Nathan Zuckerman, the subject/narrator of many other of Roth's novels. His 2001 novel The Human Stain, another Zuckerman novel, was awarded the United Kingdom's WH Smith Literary Award for the best book of the year. His fiction, set frequently in Newark, New Jersey, is known for its intensely autobiographical character, for philosophically and formally blurring the distinction between reality and fiction, for its "supple, ingenious style," and for its provocative explorations of Jewish and American identity.