The Ghost Writer

by Philip Roth.Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $8.95. Since Mr. Roth’s previous novels have contained a number of characters as solidly convincing as a fire engine, it is a surprise and something of a disappointment to find his latest work populated by bloodless intellectual conceptions. It is as though he had written an essay (and it would have been a very clever, penetrating essay) on “Possible Attitudes of the American-Jewish Author” and had then turned his argument into fiction by constructing a character to fit each attitude. It is still a sound argument, but it makes fiction once removed.