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The Humbling Hardcover – October 21, 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
The novel starts out well enough, interesting in fact... I believe,for some brief period that I'm with the master Roth, but alas, I'm not. My husband put the novel down on page 9 when we learn summarily that the protagonist's wife of twenty-some years, Victoria, has left without any believable reason other that Roth writes that it is so--i.e. her son's drug problem and her inability to put of his demanding, apparently never-ending negativity. "After the Kennedy Center debacle and his unexpected collapse, Victoria fell apart and fled to California to be close to her son." The entire marriage is summarized in about two pages.
The book is an OUTLINE. I would love to read about the protagonist, Simon Axler--an aging man losing his powers,in this case, his ability to get on the stage and pretend, that is to act.Read more ›
This in an improvement over my reaction when I finished it.
I was shaky. Almost shaking.
I hope you will read 'The Humbling' --- I found it to be Roth's best work in years; sentence for sentence, paragraph for paragraph, he's still the most readable serious writer we've got --- but I have a problem saying much about it.
I didn't see the third and last section ("The Final Act") coming. I didn't want the ending to be what it was. Even afterward, I couldn't accept that this was how the story had to end. And I don't want to spoil it for you by describing it in any way.
I feel the same unease in discussing the second section ("The Transformation"), which also came as a surprise to me. In the interest of having it come as a surprise to you, I will speak no more of it here.
Which leaves me to convince you to read this masterful --- and, as I say, very disturbing --- book by discussing only the 43 pages of the first section ("Into Thin Air").
Well, okay. Simon Axler is one of the great stage actors of his generation. But now he's in his mid-60s, and he's adrift. This is how the book starts:
"He'd lost it. The impulse was spent. He'd never failed in the theater, everything he had done had been strong and successful, and then the terrible thing happened: he couldn't act. Going onstage became agony. Instead of the certainty that he was going to be wonderful, he knew he was going to fail. It happened three times in a row. And by the last time nobody was interested, nobody came. He couldn't get over to the audience. His talent was dead.Read more ›
The Humbling centers on an aging (60's is that old?), hugely accomplished, long-acclaimed actor who's "lost his talent" as he repeatedly puts it, and is wrestling with suicidal thoughts.
But from the get go, this premise is difficult to accept, primarily because so little meat is put on its bones. How did Axler get here? We don't know. He apparently is concerned enough to voluntarily institutionalize himself for 27 days, and actually shows mild signs of improvement. But then, home again, how can this former lion of a man immediately return to his simplistic loop of "It's over....It's finished....I'm finished forever with happiness..etc. He goes on this way for months, a person we increasingly experience as a soulless stick figure with a mantra-mindedness that is, simply, unconvincing. Where is the psychological, philosophical and/or historical texture needed for our exploration of this dull, whining guy? Where are the vestiges of the man he was until a year earlier?
In comes the intriguing 40 year old woman, who literally appears on his doorstep. Axler had known her slightly as a girl through her parents, and had learned years before that she was a lesbian. When he asks her months after her unexpected knock at the door, "How come you drove over that afternoon?" she says "I wanted to see if you were with someone." Why him? We don't really know.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I always enjoy reading the work ff Phillip Roth. They are always well written and I admire his use of language. Read morePublished 11 days ago by Bob Iannaccone
I am a long time fan of Philip Roth. In the later portion of his career, his books seem to have a common theme. Read morePublished 4 months ago by JMack
I am male of certain age 74, and when philip Roth writes about males aging, his insights are amazing. Humorous, painful, . Read morePublished 7 months ago by john
I have not read all of Philip Roth's books but I have read well over twenty. Of the books Roth did in his seventies, especially the novella-sized works this seems to me the worst. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Shalom Freedman