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Everyman Hardcover – April 1, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. [Signature]Reviewed by Sara NelsonWhat is it about Philip Roth? He has published 27 books, almost all of which deal with the same topics—Jewishness, Americanness, sex, aging, family—and yet each is simultaneously familiar and new. His latest novel is a slim but dense volume about a sickly boy who grows up obsessed with his and everybody else's health, and eventually dies in his 70s, just as he always said he would. (I'm not giving anything away here; the story begins with the hero's funeral.) It might remind you of the old joke about the hypochondriac who ordered his tombstone to read: "I told you I was sick."And yet, despite its coy title, the book is both universal and very, very specific, and Roth watchers will not be able to stop themselves from comparing the hero to Roth himself. (In most of his books, whether written in the third person or the first, a main character is a tortured Jewish guy from Newark—like Roth.) The unnamed hero here is a thrice-married adman, a father and a philanderer, a 70-something who spends his last days lamenting his lost prowess (physical and sexual), envying his healthy and beloved older brother, and refusing to apologize for his many years of bad behavior, although he palpably regrets them. Surely some wiseacre critic will note that he is Portnoy all grown up, an amalgamation of all the womanizing, sex- and death-obsessed characters Roth has written about (and been?) throughout his career.But to obsess about the parallels between author and character is to miss the point: like all of Roth's works, even the lesser ones, this is an artful yet surprisingly readable treatise on... well, on being human and struggling and aging at the beginning of the new century. It also borrows devices from his previous works—there's a sequence about a gravedigger that's reminiscent of the glove-making passages in American Pastoral, and many observations will remind careful readers of both Patrimony and The Dying Animal—and through it all, there's that Rothian voice: pained, angry, arrogant and deeply, wryly funny. Nothing escapes him, not even his own self-seriousness. "Amateurs look for inspiration; the rest of us just get up and go to work," he has his adman-turned-art-teacher opine about an annoying student. Obviously, Roth himself is a professional. (May 5)Sara Nelson is editor-in-chief of PW.
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Roth's late-career surge has the Minneapolis Star-Tribune wondering if the esteemed writer is "juicing himself on the literary equivalent of steroids." After the success of The Plot Against America (**** Nov/Dec 2004), the Pulitzer Prize-National Book Award-PEN/Nabokov?winning author shifts his focus from the political to the intensely personal. The critics divide into two camps: those that see Everyman as a cohesive blend of Roth's thematic concerns and those that feel he's just treading the same old ground he covered in The Dying Animal, but with much less success. It's a tug of war of expectations, with the supporters of this 27th novel outnumbering the disappointed. For a man who once said, "Sheer playfulness and deadly seriousness are my closest friends," expect more of the latter from this short, meditative work.<BR>Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (April 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 061873516X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618735167
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (187 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #991,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

In the 1990s Philip Roth won America's four major literary awards in succession: the National Book Critics Circle Award for Patrimony (1991), the PEN/Faulkner Award for Operation Shylock (1993), the National Book Award for Sabbath's Theater (1995), and the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for American Pastoral (1997). He won the Ambassador Book Award of the English-Speaking Union for I Married a Communist (1998); in the same year he received the National Medal of Arts at the White House. Previously he won the National Book Critics Circle Award for The Counterlife (1986) and the National Book Award for his first book, Goodbye, Columbus (1959). In 2000 he published The Human Stain, concluding a trilogy that depicts the ideological ethos of postwar America. For The Human Stain Roth received his second PEN/Faulkner Award as well as Britain's W. H. Smith Award for the Best Book of the Year. In 2001 he received the highest award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Gold Medal in Fiction, given every six years "for the entire work of the recipient." In 2005 The Plot Against America received the Society of American Historians Award for "the outstanding historical novel on an American theme for 2003--2004." In 2007 Roth received the PEN/Faulkner Award for Everyman.

Customer Reviews

This book turned out to be more than a good read for me; it was an experience.
To read Roth is to look in the mirror, reminding us that while living we can make changes and alter destiny - to a point: and that does help.
Grady Harp
Philip Roth's book is among the most decorated of recent works in American fiction, and it deserves to be.
Marc E. Nicholson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

151 of 165 people found the following review helpful By sb-lynn TOP 500 REVIEWER on April 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book turned out to be more than a good read for me; it was an experience.

I need to start this review by saying I really like Philip Roth. Books like American Pastoral and The Human Stain and many of his older books were terrific reads for me.

This is a very short book. Normally Philip Roth can go on and on, (you know how often you can turn the page in a Roth book and see that the next two pages are all one paragraph....) but he rarely does that here. This book is very spare. Some reviews say too much so, but I disagree.

Summary, no spoilers:

The story first starts off with the protagonists funeral and then goes back in time with him narrating the story of his life.

We hear about his fear of death and his intense frustration with his increasing health problems. In essence, the human condition. And the narrator is a man with no religious convictions to soften the blow.

I have read some criticism that the character is not fully developed, but I disagree. Our narrator, (unnamed), tells us bits and pieces of his life from different times in his life. It is a thumbnail sketch of an existence. There is just enough detail so that it feels real and we can identify with his childhood exuberance and his middle-age wanderlust.

Roth manages to touch on so many universal truths and for me there were many times when I found myself nodding my head in understanding.

Yes, the book is short, very short, but perhaps because of this and because of Roth's skill as a writer, when I turned the last page I felt like I had read something much longer. It did not need one more word.

Highly recommended. It's the work of a great artist again sharing his observations about life in a way that makes us empathize.
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Richard B. Schwartz TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 13, 2007
Format: Paperback
First the caveats. This is not a play; it is a novel. This is not an allegory; it is a realistic narrative. This is not about everyman; it is about a specific individual. Everyman is not a secularized Jewish New Yorker with a brother worth $50,000,000, three wives, and the opportunity to have hot sex with a Danish model. The life of the unnamed protagonist does, however, link with common aspects of human experience in striking and sometimes profound ways.

There are three major themes. The first is the exploration of the Scottish proverb that (put more decorously) an aroused male member has no conscience. When it follows its impulses the results are often ultimately unpleasant. The second, more important theme, is the illustration of Yeats's notion that as we age we increasingly feel as if our hearts--sick with desire--are "fastened to a dying animal." The book is a meditation on death, but more particularly a meditation upon the ways in which our bodies (some of our bodies; the protagonist's brother is healthy as well as rich) fail and betray us. The third is the importance of family and friends, but particularly family--a nexus of relationships that we see as important when we stop being selfish and begin to be wise.

The story is beautifully written, beautifully plotted, beautifully realized. It is grim but neither hollow nor depressing, erotic but not lurid. Most of all it is rich in details and descriptions. Highly recommended.
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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Moose on April 29, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you're like me, and you consider Philip Roth to be one of the historic literary greats, it doesn't matter what I or anybody else has to say about Everyman: you're going to read this book. But I think you'll find Everyman to be less than satisfying. There's very little "astonishing" in this book, as there is in every page, if not in every paragraph, of Roth's best novels. On the subject of old age and imminent oblivion, Roth himself did a better and more artistic job in Sabbath's Theater and the novels narrated by Zuckerman (remember the old man in I Married a Communist?). Death is horrifying, but awesomely horrifying. Everyman is devoid of awe.

It's not apparent to me what Roth wants the reader to think of the main character. The title and numerous passages in the book indicate the guy exemplifies average, normal mankind, but he doesn't. As you would expect from a Roth protagonist, the Everyman character is abnormally incompetent at family life, and abnormally obsessed with silly sex. I'm not giving anything away here, but the guy craters a good marriage in favor of anal sex with an airhead. What are we supposed to make of that particular in a book that takes on existential themes? The good wife's furious denunciation of her husband are the best pages in the book: fluent, copious, intelligent rage, like something out of Greek tragedy.

As I said, you know Roth is a national treasure, you're going to read this book, and you should. But you won't re-read it, as you do your favorite Roth novels.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By debra crosby on January 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I just finished this book and, being a middle aged Baby Boomer, I was absolutely astounded at the feelings it roused in me. I know that my response will not be the same as that of a young person reading it and my advice to the younger reader would be to save this book and read it again in 20 years. The "everyman" of the title is the unnamed protagonist whose funeral opens the novel. We are taken back over his life to see his youthful gusto slowly erode into middle age beset by health problems he neither anticipated nor believed he deserved. His errors in judgment are tempered by his guilt and also by the knowledge that he probably would not have done anything differently if he had the chance. A study on what it feels like to still be young enough to want to enjoy life and yet to remember what it was like to be much more energetic and alive (I particularly related to the passages where he reminisced about swimming in the ocean, something I used to enjoy), this small book is provocative and thought-provoking. It states so well the angst of the middle-aged person who knows his life is now more than half over, and yet who doesn't want to think about that. Every day his body tells him, though, and he can't deny the truths of a harsh reality. The protagonist battles his own demons and compares his life to that of his hard working parents and his caring, and highly successful brother. His behaviour has alienated him from his ex-wives and most of his children, and although he seems to seek solitude, he yearns for intimacy. I was deeply moved by this book. It is so well written; I admire a writer who can pack so much emotion into so few words, and Philip Roth has done that very well.
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