Sunday, March 27, 2011

Everyman by Philip Roth

An outraged old man building a case that aging and death are cruel and suffering void of redemption

A short slight book but packed with many vivid scenes and characters. Earthy angry writing. Elegiac, I suppose. The main character, nameless, Everyman, reviews the events of his life, including the lusty adventures of his youth, the selfish inevitable family decisions he made in pursuit of this lust and the detailed almost hypochondriacally retelling of his many illnesses since. Sex is finished now, kaput, but what if you have based the meaning of your life on your prick? That means it’s time to die.

This didn’t hook me though as other Roth novels have. Perhaps I’m not old enough. Or perhaps the plot is too flimsy and familiar. There’s rage, but the rage lacks a platform. The egomania grew wearying, although I liked the bizarre formal interviews: the phone calls to the bereaved and deeply depressed and dying, the stagy earnest discussions with grave diggers, the memory of a devoted wife’s angry speech when throwing him out on his ass.

The women come in two flavors—self sacrificing saints and unkempt whores. I have known many women in my life, but am pretty sure I’ve never met any women like these. It’s a structural flaw, I think.

Is there regret here? Should there be regret here? The final beautiful paragraph turns us to the present moment and to life – linking childhood, the planet Earth and the unexpectedness of death.

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