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Nadine GordimerPhilip Roth is a magnificent victor in attempting to disprove Georg Lukacs's dictum of the impossible aim of the writer to encompass all of life.
— The New York Times
Philip Roth's new novel is a candidly intimate yet universal story of loss, regret, and stoicism. The best-selling author of The Plot Against America now turns his attention from "one family's harrowing encounter with history" (New York Times) to one man's lifelong skirmish with mortality.
The fate of Roth's everyman is traced from his first shocking confrontation with death on the idyllic beaches of his childhood summers, through the family trials and professional achievements ...
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Philip Roth's new novel is a candidly intimate yet universal story of loss, regret, and stoicism. The best-selling author of The Plot Against America now turns his attention from "one family's harrowing encounter with history" (New York Times) to one man's lifelong skirmish with mortality.
The fate of Roth's everyman is traced from his first shocking confrontation with death on the idyllic beaches of his childhood summers, through the family trials and professional achievements of his vigorous adulthood, and into his old age, when he is rended by observing the deterioration of his contemporaries and stalked by his own physical woes.
A successful commercial artist with a New York ad agency, he is the father of two sons from a first marriage who despise him and a daughter from a second marriage who adores him. He is the beloved brother of a good man whose physical well-being comes to arouse his bitter envy, and he is the lonely ex-husband of three very different women with whom he's made a mess of marriage. In the end he is a man who has become what he does not want to be.
The terrain of this powerful novel—Roth's twenty-seventh book and the fifth to be published in the twenty-first century—is the human body. Its subject is the common experience that terrifies us all.
Everyman takes its title from an anonymous fifteenth-century allegorical play, a classic of early English drama, whose theme is the summoning of the living to death.
"Through it all, there's that Rothian voice: pained, angry, arrogant and deeply, wryly funny. Nothing escapes him." Publishers Weekly, Starred
"Let's use a noun I've never used before: masterpiece." Atlantic Monthly
"This brilliant little morality play on the ways that our bodies dictate the paths our lives take is vintage Roth" Library Journal Starred
"It's another triumph" CNN
"Same old terrain, same ever-astonishing mastery." Observer
"Let's not crank up the suspense. He's done it again" Newsweek
" Mr. Roth, our best literary stylist...does an impressive job on his chosen turf." The Wall Street Journal
"...elegant, profoundly brave work of art." O, The Oprah Magazine
"...an instance of Roth writing at the top of his bent and to maximum effect" The Chicago Tribune
"[Everyman] is a parable that captures, as few works of fiction have, the pathos of Being." The Washington Post
Around the grave in the rundown cemetery were a few of his former advertising colleagues from New York, who recalled his energy and originality and told his daughter, Nancy, what a pleasure it had been to work with him. There were also people who’d driven up from Starfish Beach, the residential retirement village at the Jersey Shore where he’d been living since Thanksgiving of 2001—the elderly to whom only recently he’d been giving art classes. And there were his two sons, Randy and Lonny, middle-aged men from his turbulent first marriage, very much their mother’s children, who as a consequence knew little of him that was praiseworthy and much that was beastly and who were present out of duty and nothing more. His older brother, Howie, and his sister-in-law were there, having flown in from California the night before, and there was one of his three ex-wives, the middle one, Nancy’s mother, Phoebe, a tall, very thin whitehaired woman whose right arm hung limply at her side. When asked by Nancy if she wanted to say anything, Phoebe shyly shook her head but then went ahead to speak in a soft voice, her speech faintly slurred. “It’s just so hard to believe. I keep thinking of him swimming the bay—that’s all. I just keep seeing him swimming the bay.” And then Nancy, who had made her father’s funeral arrangements and placed the phone calls to those who’d showed up so that the mourners wouldn’t consist of just her mother, herself, and his brother and sister-in-law. There was only one person whose presence hadn’t to do with having been invited, a heavyset woman with a pleasant round face and dyed red hair who had simply appeared at the cemetery and introduced herself as Maureen, the private duty nurse who had looked after him following his heart surgery years back. Howie remembered her and went up to kiss her cheek.
Nancy told everyone, “I can begin by saying something to you about this cemetery, because I’ve discovered that my father’s grandfather, my greatgrandfather, is not only buried in the original few acres alongside my great-grandmother but was one of its founders in 1888. The association that first financed and erected the cemetery was composed of the burial societies of Jewish benevolent organizations and congregations scattered across Union and Essex counties. My great-grandfather owned and ran a boarding house in Elizabeth that catered especially to newly arrived immigrants, and he was concerned with their well-being as more than a mere landlord. That’s why he was among the original members who purchased the open field that was here and who themselves graded and landscaped it, and why he served as the first cemetery chairman. He was relatively young then but in his full vigor, and it’s his name alone that is signed to the document specifying that the cemetery was for ‘burying deceased members in accordance with Jewish law and ritual.’ As is all too obvious, the maintenance of individual plots and of the fencing and the gates is no longer what it should be. Things have rotted and toppled over, the gates are rusted, the locks are gone, there’s been vandalism. By now the place has become the butt end of the airport and what you’re hearing from a few miles away is the steady din of the New Jersey Turnpike. Of course I thought first of the truly beautiful places where my father might be buried, the places where he and my mother used to swim together when they were young, and the places where he loved to swim at the shore. Yet despite the fact that looking around at the deterioration here breaks my heart—as it probably does yours, and perhaps even makes you wonder why we’re assembled on grounds so badly scarred by time—I wanted him to lie close to those who loved him and from whom he descended. My father loved his parents and he should be near them. I didn’t want him to be somewhere alone.” She was silent for a moment to collect herself. A gentle-faced woman in her mid-thirties, plainly pretty as her mother had been, she looked all at once in no way authoritative or even brave but like a ten-year-old overwhelmed. Turning toward the coffin, she picked up a clod of dirt and, before dropping it onto the lid, said lightly, with the air still of a bewildered young girl, “Well, this is how it turns out. There’s nothing more we can do, Dad.” Then she remembered his own stoical maxim from decades back and began to cry. “There’s no remaking reality,” she told him. “Just take it as it comes. Hold your ground and take it as it comes.” The next to throw dirt onto the lid of the coffin was Howie, who’d been the object of his worship when they were children and in return had always treated him with gentleness and affection, patiently teaching him to ride a bike and tto swim and to play all the sports in which Howie himself excelled. It still appeared as if he could run a football through the mmmmmiddle of the line, and he was seventy-seven years old. He’d never been hospitalized for anything and, though a sibling bred of the same stock, had remained triumphantly healthy all his life.
His voice was husky with emotion when he whispered to his wife, “My kid brother. It makes no sense.” Then he too addressed everyone. “Let’s see if I can do it. Now let’s get to this guy. About my brother . . .” He paused to compose his thoughts so that he could speak sensibly. His way of talking and the pleasant pitch of his voice were so like his brother’s that Phoebe began to cry, and, quickly, Nancy took her by the arm. “His last few years,” he said, gazing toward the grave, “he had health problems, and there was also loneliness—no less a problem. We spoke on the phone whenever we could, though near the end of his life he cut himself off from me for reasons that were never clear. From the time he was in high school he had an irresistible urge to paint, and after he retired from advertising, where he’d made a considerable success first as an art director and then when he was promoted to be a creative director—after a life in advertising he painted practically every day of every year that was left to him. We can say of him what has doubtless been said by their loved ones about nearly everyone who is buried here: he should have lived longer. He should have indeed.” Here, after a moment’s silence, the resigned look of gloom on his face gave way to a sorrowful smile. “When I started high school and had team practice in the afternoons, he took over the errands that I used to run for my father after school. He loved being only nine years old and carrying the diamonds in an envelope in his jacket pocket onto the bus to Newark, where the setter and the sizer and the polisher and the watch repairman our father used each sat in a cubbyhole of his own, tucked away on Frelinghuysen Avenue. Those trips gave that kid enormous pleasure. I think watching these artisans doing their lonely work in those tight little places gave him the idea for using his hands to make art. I think looking at the facets of the diamonds through my father’s jewelry loupe is something else that fostered his desire to make art.” A laugh suddenly got the upper hand with Howie, a little flurry of relief from his task, and he said, “I was the conventional brother. In me diamonds fostered a desire to make money.” Then he resumed where he’d left off, looking through the large sunny window of their boyhood years. “Our father took a small ad in the Elizabeth Journal once a month. During the holiday season, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, he took the ad once a week. ‘Trade in your old watch for a new one.’ All these old watches that he accumulated—most of them beyond repair—were dumped in a drawer in the back of the store. My little brother could sit there for hours, spinning the hands and listening to the watches tick, if they still did, and studying what each face and what each case looked like. That’s what made that boy tick. A hundred, two hundred tradein watches, the entire drawerful probably worth no more than ten bucks, but to his budding artist’s eye, that backroom watch drawer was a treasure chest. He used to take them and wear them—he always had a watch that was out of that drawer. One of the ones that worked. And the ones he tried to make work, whose looks he liked, he’d fiddle around with but to no avail—generally he’d only make them worse. Still, that was the beginning of his using his hands to perform meticulous tasks. My father always had two girls just out of high school, in their late teens or early twenties, helping him behind the counter in the store. Nice, sweet Elizabeth girls, well-mannered, clean-cut girls, always Christian, mainly Irish Catholic, whose fathers and brothers and uncles worked for Singer Sewing Machine or for the biscuit company or down at the port. He figured nice Christian girls would make the customers feel more at home. If asked to, the girls would try on the jewelry for the customers, model it for them, and if we were lucky, the women would wind up buying. As my father told us, when a pretty young woman wears a piece of jewelry, other women think that when they wear the piece of jewelry they’ll look like that too. The guys off the docks at the port who came in looking for engagement rings and wedding rings for their girlfriends would sometimes have the temerity to take the salesgirl’s hand in order to examine the stone up close. My brother liked to be around the girls too, and that was long before he could even begin to understand what it was he was enjoying so much. He would help the girls empty the window and the showcases at the end of the day. He’d do anything at all to help them. They’d empty the windows and cases of everything but the cheapest stuff, and just before closing time this little kid would open the big safe in the backroom with the combination my father had entrusted to him. I’d done all these jobs before him, including getting as close as I could to the girls, especially to two blond sisters named Harriet and May. Over the years there was Harriet, May, Annmarie, Jean, there was Myra, Mary, Patty, there was Kathleen and Corine, and every one of them took a shine to that kid. Corine, the great beauty, would sit at the workbench in the backroom in early November and she and my kid brother would address the catalogues the store printed up and sent to all the customers for the holiday buying season, when my father was open six nights a week and everybody worked like a dog. If you gave my brother a box of envelopes, he could count them faster than anybody because his fingers were so dexterous and because he counted the envelopes by fives. I’d look in and, sure enough, that’s what he’d be doing—showing off with the envelopes for Corine. How that boy loved doing everything that went along with being the jeweler’s reliable son! That was our father’s favorite accolade—‘reliable.’ Over the years our father sold wedding rings to Elizabeth’s Irish and Germans and Slovaks and Italians and Poles, most of them young working-class stiffs. Half the time, after he’d made the sale, we’d be invited, the whole family, to the wedding. People liked him—he had a sense of humor and he kept his prices low and he extended credit to everyone, so we’d go—first to the church, then on to the noisy festivities. There was the Depression, there was the war, but there were also the weddings, there were our salesgirls, there were the trips to Newark on the bus with hundreds of dollars’ worth of diamonds stashed away in envelopes in the pockets of our mackinaws. On the outside of each envelope were the instructions for the setter or the sizer written by our father. There was the five- foot-high Mosley safe slotted for all the jewelry trays that we carefully put away every night and removed every morning . . . and all of this constituted the core of my brother’s life as a good little boy.” Howie’s eyes rested on the coffin again. “And now what?” he asked. “I think this had better be all there is. Going on and on, remembering still more . . . but why not remember? What’s another gallon of tears between family and friends? When our father died my brother asked me if I minded if he took our father’s watch. It was a Hamilton, made in Lancaster, P-A, and according to the expert, the boss, the best watch this country ever produced. Whenever he sold one, our father never failed to assure the customer that he’d made no mistake. ‘See, I wear one myself. A very, very highly respected watch, the Hamilton. To my mind,’ he’d say, ‘the premier American-made watch, bar none.’ Seventy-nine fifty, if I remember correctly. Everything for sale in those days had to end in fifty. Hamilton had a great reputation. It was a classy watch, my dad did love his, and when my brother said he’d like to own it, I couldn’t have been happier. He could have taken the jeweler’s loupe and our father’s diamond carrying case. That was the worn old leather case that he would always carry with him in his coat pocket whenever he went to do business outside the store: with the tweezers in it, and the tiny screwdrivers and the little ring of sizers that gauge the size of a round stone and the folded white papers for holding the loose diamonds. The beautiful, cherished little things he worked with, which he held in his hands and next to his heart, yet we decided to bury the loupe and the case and all its contents in his grave. He always kept the loupe in one pocket and his cigarettes in the other, so we stuck the loupe inside his shroud. I remember my brother saying, ‘By all rights we should put it in his eye.’ That’s what grief can do to you. That’s how thrown we were. We didn’t know what else to do. Rightly or wrongly, there didn’t seem to us anything but that to do. Because they were not just his—they were him . . . To finish up about the Hamilton, my father’s old Hamilton with the crown that you would turn to wind it every morning and that you would pull out on its stem to turn to move the hands . . . except while he was in swimming, my brother wore it day and night. He took it off for good only forty-eight hours ago. He handed it to the nurse to lock away for safekeeping while he was having the surgery that killed him. In the car on the way to the cemetery this morning, my niece Nancy showed me that she’d put a new notch in the band and now it’s she who’s wearing the Hamilton to tell time by.” Then came the sons, men in their late forties and looking, with their glossy black hair and their eloquent dark eyes and the sensual fullness of their wide, identical mouths, just like their father (and like their uncle) at their age. Handsome men beginning to grow beefy and seemingly as closely linked with each other as they’d been irreconcilably alienated from the dead father. The younger, Lonny, stepped up to the grave first. But once he’d taken a clod of dirt in his hand, his entire body began to tremble and quake, and it looked as though he were on the edge of violently regurgitating. He was overcome with a feeling for his father that wasn’t antagonism but that his antagonism denied him the means to release. When he opened his mouth, nothing emerged except a series of grotesque gasps, making it appear likely that whatever had him in its grip would never be finished with him. He was in so desperate a state that Randy, the older, more decisive son, the scolding son, came instantly to his rescue. He took the clod of dirt from the hand of the younger one and tossed it onto the casket for both of them. And he readily met with success when he went to speak. “Sleep easy, Pop,” Randy said, but any note of tenderness, grief, love, or loss was terrifyingly absent from his voice.
The last to approach the coffin was the private duty nurse, Maureen, a battler from the look of her and no stranger to either life or death. When, with a smile, she let the dirt slip slowly across her curled palm and out the side of her hand onto the coffin, the gesture looked like the prelude to a carnal act. Clearly this was a man to whom she’d once given much thought.
That was the end. No special point had been made. Did they all say what they had to say? No, they didn’t, and of course they did. Up and down the state that day, there’d been five hundred funerals like his, routine, ordinary, and except for the thirty wayward seconds furnished by the sons—and Howie’s resurrecting with such painstaking precision the world as it innocently existed before the invention of death, life perpetual in their fathercreated Eden, a paradise just fifteen feet wide by forty feet deep disguised as an old-style jewelry store—no more or less interesting than any of the others. But then it’s the commonness that’s most wrenching, the registering once more of the fact of death that overwhelms everything.
In a matter of minutes, everybody had walked away—wearily and tearfully walked away from our species’ least favorite activity—and he was left behind. Of course, as when anyone dies, though many were grief-stricken, others remained unperturbed, or found themselves relieved, or, for reasons good or bad, were genuinely pleased.
Copyright © 2006 by Philip Roth. Reprinted with permission by Houghton Mifflin Company.
1. What is the relevance of the title to the story that is told in the novel?
2. What do you learn about the man being buried from the opening scene at the cemetery? What would the book be like if this scene came—as it might if the story were told chronologically—at the end rather than at the beginning?
3. Describe precisely his predicament with his sons, Lonny and Randy.
4. Describe precisely his relationship with his daughter, Nancy. What is the nature of their predicament?
5. Why does he refuse the consolations of religion despite his sharing in the universal terror of death?
6. What is his relationship with the dead? a. With his dead parents. b. With Millicent Kramer. c. With those of his family who are long dead.
7. Why does he take up painting, and why does he abandon it? Why does he begin teaching painting classes to his fellow retirees, and why does he stop teaching?
8. Exactly what transpires between the young jogger and the hero? Trace the shifting development of their encounter line by line.
9. While visiting his parents’ graves, the protagonist imagines his father telling him: “Look back and atone for what you can atone for, and make the best of what you have left” [p. 171]. Why does he imagine his father giving this order? Why doesn’t he imagine his mother giving it? Why does he imagine his mother saying “Good. You lived” [p. 171]. What does she mean? How do you explain the difference between what is voiced by the father and what is voiced by the mother?
10. Some readers have said that they wept when they finished reading the book. Did you weep? If so, why? If not, how do you understand the response of those who did?
11. Examine the final paragraph of the book sentence by sentence. Discuss the motifs that are gathered together in these final sentences and the importance of each to the novel.
12. How does the twenty-first-century novel Everyman significantly diverge in content, form, and intent from the fifteenth-century English morality play Everyman? In what important ways has Roth modernized and secularized that medieval text?
Posted April 1, 2013
This was the first book I have read by Philip Roth. Even though it was very depressing, it was hard to put it down. He writes very descriptively and one gets avery clear picture of what he is saying. As to the essence of the book he pictures this man, and therefore life, in general, as nothing but a series of bad experiences with the BIG LAST EXPERIENCE AS DEATH. One can focus on this type of jouney of life or one can focus on all the beautiful and wonderful aspects of life. This is what we have been given by our maker. This is what we have on this earth. It is up to us to do with it what we will. Do the best we can, make a difference, be morally upright and be at peace when our time is up.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 23, 2012
Despite it being an easy and short read, it's an intense and rather depressing story... close up of death and what every one hopes to come before it: old age... "old age isn't a battle, old age is a massacre".... still worth the read if you are not at the brink of depression!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 16, 2009
Philip Roth pulls together feelings about "everymans" ordinary life. The sometimes unspeakable truth about how good men deal with bad situations is revieled in a short but topical novel.
Divorce, children, affairs, and repenting are all dicussed in a poinyant yet subtle story. For men who dont like to discuss their feelings to women who jsut don't understand what makes men do some of the things they do, "Everyman" explains a lot.
This is a very easy read. Great for novice readers. Probably PG-13 at a minimum.
Posted November 7, 2008
I am not yet finished with EVERYMAN BUT AM really enjoying reading it. Being Jewish myself, i can relate to the details surrounding the funeral. We have all been there. I love just about everything Philip Roth writes and this is no exception. I happened to come upon it in a thrift store and had to have it. His details are so perfect. His writing is so sincere. I continue to be a fan.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 11, 2007
I very much enjoyed the character development and manner Roth chose to tell this story. I'm afraid many will relate all to closely to the choices made by this man, choices with a negative impact on everyone in his family. It's really a story of how we shouldn't live our lives, at least from a moral perspective. Here was a talented and successful, hard working man, who missed what is really important in this one chance we get. If conveying this message was Mr. Roth's intent then the point is well made.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 19, 2007
This extremely brief book reads more like a depressing short story than a fully realized novel. It took me less than 1 day to whip through this account of the relentlessly deteriorating health of the protagonist, his multiple surgical procedures and failed relationships with women. I personally do not need to read about the graphic details of the caricature-like older man's affair with the young beauty in order to be satisfied with a story.
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Posted April 12, 2007
I've admired Philip Roth's work since high school, when I read 'Conversion of the Jews' in a short story/novella class. I was intrigued by Sabbath's Theater 'is anyone beyond redemption?', very moved by American Pastoral 'a great American novel about the myth of the American Dream', and amazed by The Human Stain 'American 'morality' shown for the hypocrisy so many have let it become'. And now, with Everyman, Philip Roth has done it again. This story is nothing less than a contemplation on mortality as seen through the failing of one human being's anatomy. It's a short novel, but it's filled to brimming with passion, ideas, and the question of what it is that truly defines what it means to exist (while thinking every day, in the back of one's mind, of how death is the greatest mystery and one from which nothing that breathes may ever escape). Though it may seem an intensely moribund novel, it is, considered in its entirety, incredibly moving - even life affirming. Philip Roth has taken an ordinary human being and, without falling on cheaply contrived authorial mechanics (quite a feat), has presented an unnamed person 'all of us, really' in a manner that is as complex as it is inevitable. I will not go into plot, for doing so would threaten to lessen the experience for one who has yet to read this novel. And though I feel ambivalent about awards 'where aesthetics exist, they are prickly things', were it that, with Everyman, Philip Roth received a second Pulitzer, I would feel that some form of literary justice had been served. With each novel, Philip Roth again does something he accomplished long ago: he proves himself one of the great writers in American fiction.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 16, 2007
In the 15th century English morality play Everyman, the titular character is summoned by Death and learns that no other friends, worldly goods nor beauty will go with him -- none except good deeds. In American author Philip Roth's identically named latest novel, the protagonist ponders whether he possesses much of any of those things in the first place. The novel opens at the burial of the unnamed protagonist, where Roth clumsily makes two characters deliver eulogies that outline his life to the reader. Rising from a working-class Jewish childhood in New Jersey to become a New York advertising man, he spent his last years at a private retirement community on the Jersey shore. He is close to his daughter and his elder brother, but also has three failed marriages and two estranged sons. As the narrative moves back in time to the protagonist's own thoughts as he awaits surgery, the reader learns he has had his share of the good and the bad. But the defining characteristics of his life is his battle for it not to end. In and out of hospital for various bodily failures all his life, from a hernia in his childhood to collapsing arteries in his old age, much of his musings are on the failty of the human body. Roth devotes large chunks of text to describing hospital stays and operations, and the descriptions are admirable in detail and depressing in content. The deterioration of the protagonist's body over the years also physically parallels the deterioration of his life over the years. His life succumbs to forces he cannot seem to control -- generally emotional, frequently sexual. Betraying a series of wives because he lusts and longs for someone or something else, he leaves behind a trail of wounded women and confused children. These dysfunctional relationships make up the bulk of the novel, and he recalls his past decisions with a mixture of regret and resignation. Unfortunately, it can be hard to care about any of these characters -- and consequently, the protagonist himself -- since Roth seems content to leave them as sketches, without quirks and inconsistencies. There is the successful elder brother, the vulnerable daughter, the trinity of ex-wives 'shrew, saint and ditz, respectively', and even a wise gravedigger who appears at the end to provide an epiphany. Perhaps Roth intended his characters, like in a morality play, to embody various human virtues and vices. In any case, they are trotted in for the protagonist to muse upon what it means to be human, without being convincingly human themselves.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 15, 2006
Wow just wow, a book about the story of a life of a New Jersey Jewish immagrant. Although it is fiction it makes a great case for the lives that everyday people live. Travel through the life of one man who as the book starts out dies, and have him grow on you as you get further in the book. Some of his decisions and actions are unforgiveable but you learn how the person that commits them lives with them, which is just a great insight into the minds of ordinary people, as this book, Everman, can symbolize my or even your life as it unfolds, getting sick, having family problems, lossing loved ones, and comming to an old age and dying.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 26, 2006
'Everyman ' the newest novel by Philip Roth is a huge disappointment for me, as I usually enjoy every novel from this talented writer. Though Mr. Roth writes well there is no question about his ability to write, the question is where's the story. I was thoroughly bored with the character the novel is about. Opening on his death and burial then back to his life, seems to be filled with his preoccupation of his health, sickness and surgeries. When not dealing with his, Roth has chosen to comment on others that surround him. I would like to think that it is only because this story is depressing, but I do believe that it is because this is a not an interesting story to tell. A novel needs to be written well but I think it also must have a good story. I look forward to the next novel Mr. Roth writes and will hope he finds himself a different muse.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 13, 2006
Philip Roth¿s `Everyman¿ is a tale especially appropriate to our time and situation. In tracing the life and death, and above all, the old age of his protagonist and everyman a retired thrice- married and thrice- divorced commercial artist he gives an insight into what most of us have already experienced some of , and will probably know a great deal of before we leave the world. He gives a chilling chronicle of what Old Age does to people. In what I found to be the most instructive passage of the book he reflects after speaking to three former colleagues each devastated in his own way on the end of life. ¿Had he been aware of the mortal suffering of every man and woman he happened to have known during all his years of professional life, of each one¿s painful story of regret and loss and stoicism , of fear and panic and isolation and dread, had he learned of every last thing they had parted with that once had been vitally theirs and of how, systematically, they were being destroyed , he would have had to stay on the phone through the day and into the night, making another hundred calls at least. Old age isn¿t a battle it¿s a massacre.¿ Roth gives a sympathetic picture of a hero who has come to the end of his life, cut off from most of those he should be close with. But he also portrays vividly the joys and loves of that life, its major decisions and foul- ups. And in telling nuanced dialogue it sets forth the complex set of relations between the protagonist and his one loving daughter, two resentful sons, and the second wife whose abandonment has been his greatest crime and failure. This book does not have the comic genius of some of Roth¿s earlier work, but it does have a sober, sensitive insightful and ultimately moving portrayal of what the human being goes through at the end of days. Whether it is a masterpiece is a question, it certainly is a most outstanding instance of that Literature which sees deeply into Life, and enhances it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 7, 2006
This is a magnificent book. Roth has performed a remarkable feat: Creating a book which is both erudite and immensely readable. I read it in a single day. As I read the Keats poem at the beginning, I was reminded of another poem which could also serve as an entry to this book: from Yeats' 'Sailing to Byzantium': 'This is no country for old men. The young in one another's arms...' This is my choice to present to my book club during its next season here in our retirement community.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 30, 2006
I just have to say thank you to Phillip Roth for reminding us that life is short it ultimately adds up to nothing and there are millions of people who are essentially living just to take up space, hurt others, eat, and then die. This was very well written and an easy read I enjoyed it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 24, 2006
As soon as I got to the end, I was compelled to go back to the very first page and start over again. Wonderfully written -- it brings the reader face to face with mortality. Reminding us that that the human body, and human relationships, are frail. Thank you, Phillip Roth, for this insightful story!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 22, 2006
I like Mr. Roth's work for two reasons: One, he doesn't shy away from controversial topics (the way J.T. McCrae and Palahniuk don't), and Two, he is a great writer. To find one of these qualities in an author is rare, but to find them coupled together in one is mind-boggeling. And the guy hasn't just written ONE book, but many. I first became familiar with Roth's work via PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT which just blew me away. Then I read all his other books and couldn't get enough. If there is one writer America can be proud of, it's Mr. Roth. Kudos.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 22, 2006
'Old age isn't a battle old age is a massacre.' Philip Roth in this brief 180 page latest book offers us an extended elegy about the processes of living and dying, and in his customary succinct style he manages to share the anxieties and fears and philosophical changes that pepper our lives as we tread from the memories of childhood to the realities of facing death. It is a beautifully designed and realized touching series of thoughts on the meaning of living a life. The nameless Everyman relating the story is a familiar Roth creation: the child of a Jewish diamond and watch salesman, he grows up in New Jersey with his 'near perfect' brother Howie, manages to stumble through three marriages sire two sons and a daughter, and move through life never quite connecting with the moment. We meet him at novel's beginning at his funeral and the book is a retrospective of his life. And at novel's end, after walking us through the errors of his life and the treasured moments of his childhood and his time with his various wives, estranged sons, beloved daughter and the constant Howie, our main character reaches out to the world that is left as he faces his umpteenth surgery and brush with death by telephoning old acquaintances: 'Had be been aware of the mortal suffering of every man and woman he happened to have known during all his years of professional life, of each one's painful story of regret and loss and stoicism, of fear and panic and isolation and dread, had he learned of every last thing they had parted with that had once been vitally theirs and of how, systematically, they were being destroyed, he would have had to stay on the phone through the day and into the night, making at least another hundred calls at least'.This is writing of the highest order, brief, touching, illuminating, caring. 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. Highly recommended. Grady HarpWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 12, 2006
In a time when most commercial literature is more like pop music, it's a pleasure to read a very well written story. I could not help but see some of myself as I read this book. Roth deals with the issues of life and death in a way similiar to Hemingway. If you enjoy excellent writing that is truthful, you will enjoy Everyman. It's good to have Philip Roth as a writer.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 30, 2010
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Posted April 18, 2011
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Posted October 16, 2011
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