Philip Roth's Exit Ghost (Houghton Mifflin) marks the swan song of Nathan Zuckerman, his famous literary alter ego introduced in The Ghost Writer in 1979. The new book is a direct sequel, reacquainting the sour, brilliant, witty Zuckerman with E.I. Lonoff, the reclusive Jewish writer who inspired him five decades ago. Lonoff is now dead, but a clever young biographer is about to take apart his literary reputation with the hatchet of personal scandal, and his old muse, the once luminous, now sickly Amy Bellette, has popped up in New York. Zuckerman is impotent and incontinent, yet can't stop himself from falling ridiculously in love/lust with a young married writer. He struggles with the sense of solitude and regret that has suffused Roth's recent work, and that he sees as central to any true life in art. Roth is barreling along toward the Nobel Prize, one can't help thinking (the only major award he has not yet received), and it has come to feel like a special privilege just having him around. His books crackle with an intellectual energy and stylistic verve that would be stunning in any writer, never mind one 50 years into his remarkable career.