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I read Asymmetry , by Lisa Halliday. Why did I read this book? The New York Times, staffed by people who read, named Asymmetry one of the ten best books of It was available at the library, so I checked it out. But I knew absolutely nothing about it when I started. Therefore, I was very surprised, upon opening the book, to find that Asymmetry is about having sex with Philip Roth. When Halliday was younger, she apparently actually did have sex with Philip Roth.
However, in interviews , which I read after I finished the book, she claims that the Philip Roth character in the book is a composite. Lady, you fucked Philip Roth when he was old and gross.
Just own it. Sure, she fictionalizes some of the descriptions. Roth grew up in New Jersey, not Pittsburgh. At one point the narrator describes him as ejaculating like the burbling of a water fountain. Some people might find that disgusting.
But the description has a you-were-there quality that I kind of like. In fact, I found myself totally engrossed in the book for the first pages. The relationship between Mary-Alice, our narrator, and Blazer, the not-Roth, has a genuine, sweet quality. What a fresh and welcome concept.
Not-Roth loves and manipulates in equal measure, and Mary-Alice is as passive and codependent as she is witty and likable. They almost justify the fact that nearly 25 percent of that opening section gets taken up by quotes from James Joyce books and by page-long transcriptions of terrible CNN Iraq War reporting. Then, just as the story almost gets good, Asymmetry cuts away to a page novella about an Arab intellectual unjustly being detained in Heathrow Airport in An entertaining book of literary gossip suddenly becomes boring and pretentious and unreadable.