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This is a powerful book. If you are looking for a happy ending, denouement, or epiphany – look elsewhere. Right off the bat this book begins at the end, the funeral of the main, nameless character. So there are no illusions about how the story ends. But that’s really the point, because that is how the story ends for every human. Says the author, ‘old age isn’t a war- it’s a massacre.’
In a short space the back-story is filled in; from the main character’s childhood, his loving, Jewish parents, his doting big brother to his three failed marriages, his career uncertainty, his selfless daughter and estranged sons. Throughout, his medical history is detailed, along with his hypochondriacal dread. All of this is related in perfect Philip Roth unflinching fashion. And if this sounds dry, it is anything but. Roth skillfully lays bare the humanity of each character in only the way this author can.
This book will make the listener look at his or hers own life and mortality and I must say that it impacted me as strongly as any novel in recent history.
As with all Roth’s novels one can’t help but wonder that some of the material is autobiographical. Just how much is or isn’t makes no matter, because it could be universally autobiographical… for every man and woman.
12 of 12 people found this review helpful
This was a pleasure to hear, such an intelligent book. George Guidall's narration profits from the fact that he seems very comfortable and familiar with the text and its meaning as well as a generally pleasant voice.
I love Philip Roth's novels best of all American fiction, and this effort is a touching though short examination of the struggle with our common fate - to be one day full of life and loving life and the next day to die.
This particular struggle to understand his unavoidable fate concerns one man, very much from New Jersey, whose funeral opens the novella. His life and his work are seen through the prism of his relationships to those who attend his funeral. But the book seems (as so many of Roth's books do) as a personal cri de coeur, a struggle to understand illness in a man whose older brother has never been ill and to understand why he is so alone after so much love and passion in the first six decades of his life.
What I love so much about Roth's writing is the depth of his quest to understand how to live via an incredibly rational intelligence and a great feel for the absurd anchored in a time and American place. Not every book is perfect, but they are all better than most. Roth could only have written in America, not anywhere else in the world - his novels are those of immigrants and their succeeding generations and very anchored in the places and time in which he has lived. Perhaps that is what the Swedes say they don't like in Philip Roth's work - I recently read a comment that Americans don't get Nobel prizes because they are too 'narrow'.....but that is what I love about Roth's novels, how they illuminate what is unique about this time and place in America.
His later novels touch me at a level few authors can reach because they ask the most fundamental questions about life and love and fate while addressing our connection to time and place with an affection and an attention to detail that is unique. In 'American Pastoral' his discussion of Newark and the glove industry are like a paean to the artistry and craft of that time. In 'Everymen' he gives the same treatment to the jewelry trade in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He is able to represent the beauties of the world as it was when he grew up without suggesting that the past was better than the present. He pays tribute to the virtues of the past without worshiping it as better than today. He gives a sense for the nature of generations as they recede from the generations of immigrants who came here.
Roth writes of the landscape of his life with such detail and love, it always makes me emotional to talk about why I love his books so much.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
This is a sombre, powerful novel,a moving portrayal of how, an ordinary, flawed man -hence Everyman - faces death. Enjoyment would perhaps not be the appropriae word for such a theme but I found this novel a gripping and worthwhile experience. Roth is a most skilful writer and the reading by George Guidall is finely judged.Compelling listening - if you are prepared to think about your own mortality.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
Emotional, real performance. Sensitive and honest. A brilliant story very well told. Very enjoyable, almost like listening to a play. Roth' s language is so vivid , so creative and precise. Beautiful!