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Everyman Paperback – April 10, 2007
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A journey of descriptive proportions throughout a life that encounters various ebbs and flows to reflect on one's place on this planet.Published 1 month ago by Philip
A classic Philip Roth book with thoughts about life, it's meaning and how we as human often gets things completely wrong even when we know it's wrong. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Bent Dalager
We enjoy anything written by Philip Roth & are privileged to read his writings.Published 6 months ago by N. Klauder
Philip Roth is one of my favorite writers, however this is not one of my favorite books. It is the same, smooth, elegant Roth writing. But the story is oh so depressing. Read morePublished 8 months ago by A Rochester
In a typical Roth book, I highlight sentences every few pages. At his best (eg any of the American trilogy novels), no one writes better prose. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Dodd V. Attisani